The 32-year-old former journalist with Caijing, a Beijing-based magazine, and Tencent was found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a broadly defined charge often levelled by the authorities against those who are critical of the Chinese government.
Zhang was jailed for 18 months, his wife Shao Yuan said after being notified by Zhang’s lawyer on January 8.
Zhang was arrested at his residence in Guiyang, Guizho Province on August 12, 2019 and has been held in police custody ever since. The authorities later accused him of spreading false information defaming the Chinese Communist Party on Twitter.
His Twitter posts related to human rights issues and internet freedoms in China.
Zhang has been detained since August and is therefore expected to be released on February 12. Nevertheless, Zhang reportedly vowed to appeal against the ruling.
Zhang has been targeted by the Chinese authorities for several years. In February 2014, he made headlines after asking the then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to help “tear down this great firewall that blocks the Internet” during their meeting in Beijing.
He later published an op-ed in the global magazine Foreign Policy, calling on the U.S. government to deny visas to those involved in building and maintaining the Chinese great firewall of censorship. He was subsequently fired from Tencent.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “We call on Chinese authorities to stop this smear campaign against Zhang Jialong immediately, overturn a verdict based on unwarranted charges and release him immediately.”
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