Chinese Academic Sentenced to 3.5 Years in Prison After Calling COVID ‘CCP Virus’

Chinese Academic Sentenced to 3.5 Years in Prison After Calling COVID ‘CCP Virus’ - A retired professor in his 70s was recently handed a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence in China for criticizing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) handling of the pandemic and calling COVID-19 the “CCP virus.”

Chinese Academic Sentenced to 3.5 Years in Prison After Calling COVID ‘CCP Virus’

Chinese Academic Sentenced to 3.5 Years in Prison After Calling COVID ‘CCP Virus’

A retired professor in his 70s was recently handed a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence in China for criticizing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) handling of the pandemic and calling COVID-19 the “CCP virus.”

Chen Zhaozhi, who formerly taught at the University of Science and Technology Beijing, drew the regime’s ire in the early pandemic days for saying the virus was “not a Chinese virus but a CCP virus” and sharing posts discussing the severity of the outbreak in the country.

Chinese authorities arrested him in March 2020, accusing him of “fabricating” and “deliberately spreading false information.” He was sentenced on Sept. 8 for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” an umbrella charge Beijing frequently levied against critics. He was freed a day after the court verdict.

“I, Chen Zhaozhi, am back—and back alive,” he said in a phone-recorded video obtained by The Epoch Times. Mr. Chen was seated in a rolling chair back in his home. Though smiling, he said his health condition is “very poor,” and he can’t stand up without aid.

Mr. Chen is one of a long list of Chinese academics, dissidents, and citizen journalists punished for trying to shed light on the severity of the COVID outbreak amid the ongoing coverup from Beijing.

A Chinese lawyer familiar with Mr. Chen’s situation told The Epoch Times that Mr. Chen suffers from Alzheimer's disease that has deteriorated while he was held in prison. He had asked for medical parole multiple times to no avail.

“It’s political prosecution,” he said in an interview, requesting anonymity to speak freely.

Another lawyer, who also requested not to disclose his name for fear of retaliation, said that the label “CCP virus” has been a trigger word for the regime.

“This is what they fear the most,” he told The Epoch Times. “The last thing a thief wants is to be called out.”

Mr. Chen’s friend who called him after his release noted how his speech—and response in conversation—has considerably slowed compared to three years ago. Although that apparently hasn't made authorities less watchful: minders sit in front of his apartment building to monitor his coming and going, the friend said.

While what he underwent in prison remains unclear, he noted that Mr. Chen now depends entirely on his wife for his basic needs.

Mr. Chen, in his description, is a “very warm-hearted man,” always willing to lend a hand to the petitioners, helping them financially and contributing ideas to help advance their case.

“It’s speech crime,” the friend told The Epoch Times, characterizing Mr. Chen’s case. “To comment on the pandemic—this is a taboo for the authorities,” he said. Given Mr. Chen’s influence in society, he believed authorities wanted to make an example of Mr. Chen.

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A pro-democracy activist (C) from HK Alliance holds a placard of missing citizen journalist Fang Bin, as she protests outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong on Feb. 19, 2020. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images)
A pro-democracy activist (C) from HK Alliance holds a placard of missing citizen journalist Fang Bin, as she protests outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong on Feb. 19, 2020. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images)
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Calls for Accountability

For Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.), an outspoken critic of the CCP, the punishment Beijing inflicted on Mr. Chen reminds of the regime’s suppressive nature and its role in the spread of the pandemic that has now killed millions globally.

“I think we have not been aggressive enough in exposing the CCP’s coverup of the origin of the pandemic, but it doesn't surprise me that they'd be cracking down on any dissent—if you look at the lengths they went to not only suppress information in the early stages of the pandemic but also to corrupt our own scientific community here in America,” Mr. Gallagher, who leads the House Select Committee on the CCP, told The Epoch Times.

“It's a classic example of the CCP influence that had a devastating effect on the global economy.”

During the early days of the pandemic, the regime reprimanded doctors who tried to sound alarm about the outbreak’s danger, hushed questions about the official data, and detained citizen journalists who attempted to uncover the devastation on the ground when the state media collectively downplayed the COVID toll.
Fang Bin, who captured on video the stash of bodybags inside hospitals in early February, was imprisoned for three years before regaining freedom on April 30.
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Zhang Zhan stands near scaffoldings outside a shop during a visit to Wuhan in Hubei province, China, on April 11, 2020. (Courtesy of Melanie Wang via AP)
Zhang Zhan stands near scaffoldings outside a shop during a visit to Wuhan in Hubei province, China, on April 11, 2020. (Courtesy of Melanie Wang via AP)
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Another citizen journalist Zhang Zhan is currently serving a four-year sentence despite reports of her ailing health.

Three years on, the regime has maintained a tight grip on information, be it about the pandemic or anything else, resisting any effort to probe how COVID-19 began.

It is all the more reason for the outside world to take action, Mr. Gallagher said.

“We should be sanctioning Chinese entities—doing more to hold those entities accountable that were complicit in the COVID coverup.”

Li Shanshan, Luo Ya, and Chang Chun contributed to this report.