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Human Rights Experts demand that sick Chinese journalist be released immediately

Legal correspondent: Reeti Shetty

22nd November 2021: The US Department Of State has asked China to release citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, citing her declining health as a major concern. She received a four-year prison sentence for her reporting on the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan at the beginning of the pandemic. Zhang has been on an intermittent hunger strike since her arrest in May of last year. The US action comes in response to rumors that she is on the brink of death.

Zhang, a 38-year-old former lawyer, came to Wuhan for the first time in February 2020 after reading an article on the internet about life in the city during the pandemic. Despite official warnings, she began recording what she saw in public and in hospitals in live broadcasts and articles, and her discoveries were widely disseminated online. In May, she was found guilty of "picking quarrels and causing trouble," a charge frequently used against activists and whistleblowers who are considered to be undermining the government's efforts to regulate information in the country. Since her imprisonment, Ms. Zhan's hunger strike has resulted in acute malnutrition, a gastric ulcer, and growing edema of her lower limbs, among other disastrous repercussions. And she's so weak that she can't even lift her head without assistance. Her poor condition caused her to spend 11 days in a jail hospital in late July 2021, during which time she was presumably strapped to the hospital bed and force-fed, according to specialists. Professionals described her condition as "rapidly deteriorating," and they expressed great concern for her life if she did not receive prompt treatment.

This could be considered a violation of Article 7 of the Prison Law of the People’s Republic of China. It states: “Human dignity of a prisoner shall not be humiliated, and his personal safety, lawful properties, and rights to defense, petition, complaint, and accusation as well as other rights which have not been deprived of or restricted according to law shall not be violated.” Her family has asked for medical discharge, afraid she would not be capable of surviving the season. Her brother, on the other hand, informed the Hong Kong press that the chances of acceptance are very slim.


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