The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Thursday that Zhang Wenfang, a resident of Hubei province, was thrown in prison for six months last April because she wrote social media posts that included coronavirus information the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wished to suppress.
According to Chinese court documents, Zhang wrote posts on Weibo, the Chinese version of the banned Twitter social media platform, in early April to commemorate people who died during the coronavirus pandemic. She was arrested on the CCP’s all-purpose charge of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” and later slapped with additional jail time for “knowingly spreading false information and causing serious disruption to public order.” She was eventually released on October 6.
As the SCMP pointed out, none of Zhang’s posts contained demonstrably false information. The accounts she gave of people who suffered and died during the pandemic corresponded to published news reports, including an elderly Wuhan resident who killed himself when the coronavirus lockdown prevented him from receiving dialysis treatments, and famous whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang, persecuted for speaking out about the growing pandemic and later reported dead from Chinese coronavirus.
The SCMP was able to positively verify 33 of the 46 events Zhang referred to in her Weibo posts, even though she was jailed for ostensibly spreading “misinformation.” Her supporters also pointed out that she did not randomly decide to post about coronavirus victims to “provoke trouble,” but rather because April 4 was declared as a day of mourning for those lost to the pandemic.
The CCP acted to suppress coverage of Zhang’s case, raising suspicions that her real “crime” was remembering the truth about the coronavirus instead of the CCP’s rewritten and heavily edited version of history – the “correct collective memory,” as the Chinese Foreign Ministry actually called it:
“[She] got in the way of the correct collective memory right?” one said.
“Even if there was some information that did not line up with the facts, they still came from other sources online. An average member of the public does not have the ability or responsibility to verify every single detail,” said another in a post that was liked 700 times.
“A citizen, with the good intention of remembrance, compiled online information and published them. For this, she was criminally prosecuted … What a wonderful world.”
The SCMP reported that China has prosecuted at least a dozen people for disagreeing with the CCP’s “correct collective memory” of the pandemic. Some of them have been hit with even harsher penalties, including Zhang Zhan, a noted citizen journalist sentenced to four years in prison on that handy “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” charge for her reporting from Wuhan.