12/12/2020, 08.00
CHINA
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Tortured in prison, blogger Zhang Zhan's health deteriorates

Her lawyer made the allegation, demanding her immediate release. After she went on a hunger strike to protest her incarceration, she was force-fed through a tube. She refuses to break her fast and finds comfort in prayer. She ended up in the crosshairs of the authorities after writing about the outbreak in Wuhan, the pandemic’s ground zero.

Shanghai (AsiaNews) – As a result of torture in prison, blogger Zhang Zhan’s health has deteriorated, her lawyer Zhang Keke said in a post on ChinaAid. He saw her on Tuesday.

Zhang Zhan, a 37-year-old citizen journalist, is being held in Pudong prison, Shanghai. She faces five years in prison for allegedly spreading fake news as well as “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble”.

Between February and mid-May, she reported on the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan (Hubei), the pandemic’s ground zero.

The police took her into custody on 15 May and moved her to Pudong prison in Shanghai, her home town. Her formal arrest was announced on 19 June. Zhang Zhan has denied all charges laid against her. I

n September she began a hunger strike. Lawyer Zhang Keke writes that he noticed marks on her client’s mouth and nose. She told him that she was tube fed.

To prevent her from removing the feeding tube, she was chained and tied to the bed, 24 hours a day. As a result of this treatment, she is suffering from certain ailments, including migraines, dizziness, stomach pains, as well as a sore throat and mouth.

Despite this and pleas from her family, friends, and fellow activists, she has refused to stop her hunger strike, which she calls her “prayer fasting”. They fear that her Christian faith will lead her to martyrdom.

For Zhang Keke, the postponement of her court hearing threw her into despair, but she told her lawyer that she will continue to pray and meditate. “God’s words can comfort me,” she told him.

In her latest live stream on YouTube, on 13 May, Zhang talked about rising unemployment in Wuhan, the difficulties local taxi drivers face because of the lack of customers, and the intimidation by the local Urban Administrative and Law Enforcement Bureau (Chéngguǎn) against residents.

On her blog, she often criticised the government’s handling of the health crisis. Hence, prosecutors argue that she is guilty of spreading fake news about the coronavirus via WeChat, Twitter and YouTube as well as speaking to foreign media.

Zhang Zhan also mentioned other citizen journalists who were arrested in Wuhan. Three of them went missing in Hubei’s capital in February.

One, Li Zehua, had reported on the city's crematoria operating 19 hours a day. He reappeared on 22 April after being under arrest. Chen Qiushi is monitored by the authorities, but nothing is known of the fate Fang Bin.

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