The family of a Chinese journalist imprisoned for publishing information about her country’s handling of the initial outbreak of the coronavirus has said she is facing death in her prison.
Zhang Zhan, 38, who was sentenced to four years in prison in December, began a hunger strike to protest her arbitrary imprisonment and is now in a critical health condition, according to an Amnesty International report .
The organization’s director of China campaigns, Gwen Li, said that Zhan is facing death in prison, and called on the Chinese authorities to release her immediately, so that she can be provided with medical assistance.
Zhan’s brother, Zhang Ju, warned in a tweet on Twitter last week that she was now very emaciated and “may not live long.”
“It seems that she is only interested in God and the truths she believes in now,” Zhang Ju wrote, explaining that he begged his sister in his letters to “take care of herself.
“China’s prosecution of Zhang Zhan, simply because she tried to reveal what was happening in Wuhan amid massive government secrecy about the epidemic, is an outrageous assault on human rights,” the Amnesty International report said.
In February 2020, Zhang Zhan, a human rights activist and former lawyer, moved to Wuhan, to investigate what appeared to be the beginning of a serious global epidemic, which the authorities did not want to disclose to the world.
Zan published on social media, documented information about the local authorities’ dealing with reporters and families of patients, who were complaining about the lack of information about what was going on.
According to Amnesty International, Zhan disappeared in Wuhan in May 2020, when it later emerged that the Chinese authorities had arrested her and detained her in Shanghai.
After being subjected to a show trial, she was found guilty of causing controversy and trouble.
In protest against her unjust sentence, she decided to go on hunger strike.
On July 31, she was hospitalized due to severe malnutrition, but was returned to prison and “maintained a partial hunger strike, despite the serious danger to her health, which is deteriorating at a great rate,” according to the organization’s report.
Lawyers do not have any information about the prisoner’s condition currently, but they said that since her conviction she has refused to eat, and is being forcibly fed through a catheter through the nose.
It is noteworthy that citizen journalism was the only source of news and leaks about the situation in Wuhan at the beginning of the epidemic, while the authorities tightened their grip on the media to withhold information from the international community about what was happening in late 2019.
At least three other independent journalists, Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin and Li Zhihua, were imprisoned after covering the epidemic crisis in Wuhan.