A citizen journalist jailed for her coverage of China’s initial response to Covid in Wuhan is close to death after going on hunger strike, her family said, prompting renewed calls from rights groups for her immediate release.
Zhang Zhan, 38, a former lawyer, travelled to Wuhan in February 2020 to report on the chaos at the pandemic’s epicentre, questioning authorities’ handling of the outbreak in her smartphone videos.
She was detained in May 2020 and sentenced in December to four years in jail for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” — a charge routinely used to suppress dissent.
She is now severely underweight and “may not live for much longer”, her brother Zhang Ju wrote last week on a Twitter account verified by people close to the matter.
“My mother came back after seeing her the day before yesterday and cried for a long time, with a haggard face and sad eyes. Because Zhang Zhan looked dyingly ill, her body was completely out of shape. She seemed to have only God and her beliefs in her heart, and ignored the others. I feel sorry for my parents,” her brother Zhang ju added.
“Zhang Zhan, who should never have been jailed in the first place, now appears to be at grave risk of dying in prison. The Chinese authorities must release her immediately so that she can end her hunger strike and receive the appropriate medical treatment she desperately needs,” stated China Campaigner at Amnesty International Gwen Lee.