A Chinese former journalist who once urged the United States to help “tear down” Beijing’s online censorship regime has been sentenced to a year and a half in jail, his wife told AFP on Saturday.
Zhang Jialong’s sentence on Friday comes more than a year after he was detained by police for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”, an accusation often used against human rights activists and dissidents in China.
Zhang, 32, made headlines in 2014 when he met with former US secretary of state John Kerry in Beijing and requested his help to “tear down the Great Firewall of censorship”.
The firewall refers to the country’s restrictions on citizens that prevent them from accessing international sites such as Google, or reading online news critical of the Communist Party.
Zhang’s wife Shao Yuan told AFP she learned of his sentence from his lawyer on Friday, sparking mixed feelings about the outcome.
He has already been in detention since August 2019, time which counts towards his sentence, meaning he will likely be released before Chinese New Year, she said.
“Our child and I have been looking forward to his return… the process has been very long and very painful.
“But at the same time, I’m sad and worried,” she added. “I’m sad because… such a righteous and kind person was taken and sentenced.”
Tweets by Zhang on social media, including a series he wrote on internet freedoms and human rights, were presented as evidence in court of his ideological views, Shao said.
Zhang was fired from his job at internet firm Tencent shortly after his 2014 meeting with Kerry, and has since maintained a low profile.
As a reporter for financial news outlet Caijing, he was in 2011 detained for three days over posts about the demolition of artist and dissident Ai Weiwei’s workshop in Shanghai.