Chinese journalist imprisoned over Covid reporting in desperate need of medical care, says family

The US-based rights group is asking on authorities in Beijing to launch Zhang, a former lawyer, who was detained in May 2020 and sentenced in December to 4 years in jail for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” — a cost generally utilized by the Chinese authorities to focus on dissidents and human rights activists.

The 38-year-old has been on a number of starvation strikes since being detained and was briefly hospitalized however was despatched again to jail regardless of her worsening well being.

Zhang’s mom, who had a video go to along with her in October, mentioned her daughter couldn’t maintain her head up for lack of energy — she is 5 toes, 10 inches tall (1.78 meters), but now weighs below 88 kilos (about 40 kilograms), and urgently wants medical therapy.

“The Chinese government needs to be held to account for allowing yet another peaceful critic to fall gravely ill while unjustly imprisoned,” mentioned Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Governments should call for Zhang Zhan’s urgent release to prevent an already terrible situation from becoming a tragic one.”

In the early months of the pandemic, Zhang traveled some 400 miles from Shanghai to Wuhan to report on the unfold of the virus and subsequent makes an attempt to include it, simply because the authorities started reining in state-run and personal Chinese media.

For greater than three months, she documented snippets of life below lockdown in Wuhan and the tough actuality confronted by its residents, from overflowing hospitals to empty outlets. She posted her observations, photographs and movies on Wechat, Twitter and YouTube — the latter two of that are blocked in China.

Her postings got here to an abrupt cease in mid-May, and she or he was later revealed to have been detained by police and introduced again to Shanghai.

During a earlier starvation strike, Amnesty International alleges she was shackled and drive fed, therapy the group mentioned amounted to torture.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t beforehand reply to CNN on allegations of Zhang’s mistreatment in detention.

In a prolonged assertion issued in July 2020, the Foreign Ministry denied the Chinese authorities had cracked down on journalists who “exercised their right to freedom of speech on the Internet” throughout the pandemic.

“In China, no one gets punished or penalized simply because of making remarks,” the assertion mentioned. “The Chinese government has all along conducted its Covid-19 response in an open and transparent manner, and has made widely recognized achievements.”

Zhang was considered one of quite a few unbiased reporters who have been detained or disappeared throughout the outset of the pandemic, as Chinese authorities clamped down on protection of the virus and propaganda retailers went into overdrive portraying Beijing’s response as efficient and well timed.

China is the largest jailer of journalists on the earth, in response to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and tightly controls the press at dwelling whereas blocking most overseas media retailers through the Great Firewall, its huge on-line censorship and surveillance equipment.

In 2020, China expelled journalists from the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, in an unprecedented transfer towards the overseas press. Beijing mentioned the transfer — which got here amid a wave of vital reporting about China’s preliminary response to the coronavirus — was a response for current restrictions by Washington on how Chinese state media operates within the US.

Additional reporting by James Griffiths.


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