Wuhan blogger's health deteriorates. Her brother: 'She could die in prison'.
by Lu Haitao

Zhang Zhan reported on the pandemic in Wuhan during the lockdown. Sentenced to four years in prison in December 2020, she has been on hunger strike for over a year. Family members: she may not make it through the winter. Human rights organisations ask Chinese authorities to release her.

 


Beijing (AsiaNews) - Zhang Zhan's health conditions in prison are worsening. The independent journalist from Shanghai had gone to Wuhan (Hubei) after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, posting photos and videos on social networks. Arrested by police in May last year, a court sentenced her to four years in prison in December 2020 for her reports on life in the city during the lockdown.

The blogger has always maintained her innocence. Lawyers say Zhang has been on hunger strike for more than a year, with prison authorities force feeding her with a gastric tube. In August, some media reported that the journalist suffered from severe malnutrition and that her weight had dropped below 40 kilograms.

In late October, Zhang Ju (张举), the reporter's brother, started to post updates on Zhang Zhan's condition on Twitter. He posted photos from when his sister was attending university: 'Zhang Zhan is 177 centimetres tall, and now weighs less than 40 kilos. She is so stubborn. She may not live long. If she doesn't make it through the next winter, I want the world to remember her image".

Interviewed by Voice of America, Zhang Ju said Zhang Zhan's health suffered irreversible damage in prison. Last August, a doctor told him that his sister might die. Zhang Ju did not want to irritate the authorities in the interview. Although he had little hope, he expected them to grant Zhang Zhan medical parole.

Shao Wenxia (邵文侠), Zhang Zhan's mother, broke her silence after the conviction and accused the authorities of wanting to take her daughter's life. Shao regretted cooperating with the police instead of her lawyer and realised she had been cheated by the police.

Zhang Zhan, 38, is a lawyer and holds a master's degree in finance from Southwestern University of Finance and Economics. Authorities revoked her professional licence for her humanitarian activism. In 2019, police arrested her in Shanghai for supporting protests in Hong Kong against the extradition law.

In addition to Zhang Zhan, three other 'citizen journalists' were arrested in Wuhan for reporting on the epidemic. Fang Bin was lost. The authorities released Li Zehua and Chen Qiushi. The latter spoke openly on Twitter on Zhang Zhan's behalf: 'I sincerely hope she receives humane treatment. If she dies, we are all criminals'. Chen also said he was still under police surveillance.

Reporters Without Borders and other humanitarian organisations have called for Zhang Zhan's immediate release. So did Cai Xia, a former lecturer at the Chinese Communist Party's Central School who has become a vocal critic of Xi Jinping.

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