Chinese Journalist Jailed for Covid Reporting “Close to Death”, Family Says

Chinese Journalist Jailed for Covid Reporting “Close to Death”, Family Says

Citizen journalist jailed for covering China’s initial response to Covid in Wuhan is on the verge of death after going on hunger strike, her family said, prompting new calls from human rights groups man for his immediate release.

Zhang Zhan, 38, a former lawyer, traveled to Wuhan in February 2020 to report on the chaos at the center of the pandemic, questioning the authorities’ handling of the epidemic in her smartphone videos.

She was arrested in May 2020 and sentenced in December to four years in prison for “choosing quarrels and causing unrest” – a charge commonly used to quell dissent.

She is now severely underweight and “may not live very long,” her brother Zhang Ju wrote last week on a Twitter account verified by people familiar with the matter.

“Zhan is 177cm tall, she now weighs less than 40kg. She may not survive the coming cold winter, ”Zhang Ju wrote on October 30. “I hope the world will remember how she was,” he added.

Zhang went on a hunger strike and was force-fed with nasal tubes, his legal team, which had no information on his current condition, told Agence France-Presse earlier this year.

Zhang Ju’s messages sparked new calls for her sister’s release, Amnesty International urging the Chinese government to “release her immediately so that she can end her hunger strike and receive the medical treatment she desperately needs.” need “.

The human rights organization said Zhang “risked death if she was not released urgently for medical treatment” in a statement released Thursday.

“Zhang Zhan, who should never have been jailed in the first place, now appears to be at grave risk of dying in jail. The Chinese authorities must release her immediately so that she can end her hunger strike and receive the medical treatment she desperately needs, “added Amnesty activist Gwen Lee, calling her detention a” shameful attack. human rights ”.

“If Zhang Zhan dies in prison, his blood will be on the hands of the Chinese government,” Lee added.

A relative of the citizen journalist, who declined to be named, told AFP that the family asked to meet Zhang more than three weeks ago at the Shanghai Women’s Prison where she is being held but was not has not received a response.

AFP could not reach Zhang Ju as Zhang’s mother declined to comment. Shanghai prison also offered no response when approached by AFP.

Zhang can no longer walk or even lift his head without help, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

RSF East Asia bureau chief Cedric Alviani said “the international community (must) put pressure on the Chinese regime and secure the immediate release of Zhang Zhan before it is too late.”

A pro-democracy activist holds up a sign in support of Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan who was sentenced to four years in prison and the 12 people arrested in China in Hong Kong, China December 28, 2020. Photograph: Miguel Candela / EPA

“She was only doing her duty as a journalist and should never have been detained, let alone receiving a four-year prison sentence. “

China has reveled in its success in limiting domestic infections to a trickle of sporadic epidemics. The government has put forward a story crediting the Communist Party with bringing life back almost to normal even as the death toll and infection continues to explode around the world.

But those who threaten the official version by raising questions about the government’s early cover-up and handling of the Wuhan outbreak face the party’s wrath.

Zhang is one of a group of four citizen journalists – including Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin and Li Zehua – detained after reporting from Wuhan.


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