Chinese Journalist Jailed For Covid Reporting In Desperate Need For Health Care, Family Says

The US-based human rights group is calling on the Beijing authorities to release Zhang, a former lawyer, who was arrested in May 2020 and sentenced in December to four years in prison for “sparking fights and causing trouble,” a charge commonly used by the Chinese government to target dissidents and human rights activists.

The 38-year-old has been on multiple hunger strikes since she was arrested and briefly hospitalized, but was sent back to prison despite her deteriorating health.

Zhang’s mother, who had a video visit with her in October, said her daughter couldn’t hold her head up due to lack of strength: She is 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 meters) but now weighs less than 88 meters. pounds (about 40 kilograms). ) and needs urgent medical treatment.

“The Chinese government must be held accountable for allowing another peaceful critic to fall seriously ill while he was wrongfully imprisoned,” said Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Governments should call for the urgent release of Zhang Zhan to prevent an already dire situation from becoming tragic.”

In the early months of the pandemic, Zhang traveled some 400 miles from Shanghai to Wuhan to report on the spread of the virus and subsequent attempts to contain it, just as authorities began to control Chinese state and private media.

For more than three months, he documented fragments of locked life in Wuhan and the harsh reality faced by its residents, from overflowing hospitals to empty shops. He posted his observations, photos, and videos to Wechat, Twitter, and YouTube, the latter two of which are blocked in China.

Her posts came to an abrupt halt in mid-May, and it was later revealed that the police detained her and took her back to Shanghai.

During a previous hunger strike, Amnesty International alleges that she was handcuffed and force-fed, a treatment that, according to the group, amounted to torture.

China’s Foreign Ministry did not previously respond to CNN about allegations of mistreating Zhang during detention.

Chinese Journalist Who Documented Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak Jailed For 4 Years
in a long statement Issued in July 2020, the Foreign Ministry denied that the Chinese government had cracked down on journalists who “exercised their right to freedom of expression on the Internet” during the pandemic.

“In China, no one is punished or sanctioned simply for making comments,” the statement said. “The Chinese government has always carried out its response to Covid-19 in an open and transparent manner, and has made widely recognized achievements.”

Zhang was one of several independent reporters who were detained or disappeared during the onset of the pandemic, when Chinese authorities cracked down on coverage of the virus and the propaganda media soared portraying Beijing’s response as effective and timely.

China is the world’s largest jailer of journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and strictly controls the press at home while blocking most foreign media outlets through the Great Firewall, its vast apparatus of censorship and surveillance in line.

In 2020, China expelled journalists from the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, in an unprecedented move against the foreign press. Beijing said the move, which came amid a wave of critical reports about China’s initial response to the coronavirus, was a response to recent Washington restrictions on how Chinese state media operates in the United States.

Additional reporting by James Griffiths.

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