Zhang Zhan

Zhang Zhan
Zhang Zhan.png
Born (1983-09-02) 2 September 1983
Xianyang, Shaanxi, China
OccupationCitizen journalist
EducationSouthwestern University of Finance and Economics
SubjectsCOVID-19 pandemic in Mainland China

Zhang Zhan (simplified Chinese: 张展; traditional Chinese: 張展; pinyin: Zhāng Zhǎn; born 2 September 1983)[1] is a Chinese citizen journalist and former lawyer who was tortured and sentenced in December 2020 to four years in prison on the charges of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble" (寻衅滋事) for her reporting on the Chinese government's mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. She is the first citizen journalist to be sentenced for reporting on the pandemic in China, although in December 2020 at least 47 other journalists were in detention in China for their coronavirus reporting.[2] From 31 July until 11 August 2021, Zhang was hospitalized due to malnutrition after an extended intermittent hunger strike.[3] In late October, her mother and brother considered Zhang to be close to death as she continued her hunger strike while her health appeared to have deteriorated further.[4]

Journalism

Zhang is a citizen journalist who travelled from Shanghai, her place of residence, to Wuhan on 1 February 2020 to cover the COVID-19 pandemic there.[2][5][6] In dozens of short, shaky videos which she live-streamed and uploaded on Twitter, YouTube and other social media,[5][7] she documented overflowing hospitals, empty shops, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, crematoria, the detention of independent journalists and harassment of families of victims of the pandemic seeking accountability. She also wrote essays[8] and one story on 16 February that accused the government of covering up the true numbers of infections and deaths "in the name of maintaining stability", of keeping the media under control, and accused the authorities of "coercively and violently ordering and depriving people of their basic human and property rights" through the imposed strict lockdown.[5] According to Zhang, crematoria in Wuhan were running day and night, during a time when state media claimed that the pandemic was under control.[9] Another video showed her visiting the police station where Li Wenliang had been reprimanded for spreading word about the outbreak, trying to obtain information about his case.[7] In her last video before arrest, she criticised the lockdown on Wuhan for being unduly harsh, saying that the government had managed the city with "intimidation and threats", and that this was "truly the tragedy of this country."[3]

Citizen journalists have been a source of unfiltered information about the pandemic in China, however, there are very few due to lack of accreditation for them.[10]

2019 detention and 2020 arrest

In September 2019, during the 2019–2020 Hong Kong protests, Zhang held up an umbrella on Nanjing Road and People's Square in Shanghai in support of the protesters, inscribed with the slogan, "End socialism, Communist Party down." On 9 September, she was detained on suspicion of "disturbing the public order" until 13 November, during which time she went on hunger strike twice.[5][11][12]

The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a Chinese human rights group recorded that Zhang went missing on 14 May 2020, the day after she had last streamed a live broadcast from near Hankou railway station.[5] Later it was revealed she was detained by police at a hotel near the railway station where she was staying, and transported back to Shanghai.[5][13] In the days prior to losing contact with her friends, she had told them that she was being followed.[5] She was imprisoned without charge until November. Zhang is one of several citizen journalists including Li Zehua, Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin who went missing at the same time.[8][14][15] On 19 June 2020, Zhang was formally arrested on the orders of the Pudong state prosecutor. She was held in the Pudong Detention Center.[11]

Torture

According to Amnesty International, Zhang was tortured for three months before sentencing, which involved being kept shackled and in handcuffs 24 hours a day for the entire time and being force-fed;[10] Zhan had been on hunger strike since June 2020 and was since force-fed through a feeding tube, her hands were tied to prevent her from removing it.[16][17][18] Her mother described it as a "partial hunger strike" in which Zhang ate fruit and cookies, but not meat, rice or vegetables.[3] One of her lawyers said that she had begun taking some food after her health had started to decline.[7] Her lawyer Ren Quanniu said that Zhang had told him on previous occasions that her hunger strike was to protest against the curtailment of freedom of speech in China, rather than for being released.[19]

Impact of torture

Zhang was described by her lawyer Ren Quanniu in December 2020 as very weak.[8] She appeared in court in December 2020 in a wheelchair.[3] Another of her lawyers, Zhang Keke, said: "In addition to headache, dizziness and stomach pain, there was also pain in her mouth and throat. She said this may be inflammation due to the insertion of a gastric tube."[16] Her lawyer has stated in late 2020 that she may not survive.[17]

Trial, sentencing and imprisonment

Zhang was charged with picking quarrels and provoking trouble, a charge the Chinese government often uses to imprison opponents and sentenced to four years in prison.[20] The crime is defined as undermining public order by creating a disturbance in a public place.[21] The indictment sheet accused Zhang of talking to foreign media such as Radio Free Asia and The Epoch Times, and spreading false information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan.[20]

Zhang was accused of fabricating two items in her reporting from Wuhan; that residents were forced to pay a fee to get COVID-19 tests and that residents confined to their homes had been sent rotten vegetables by neighbourhood committees. Zhang maintains these are true.[22]

Supporters, foreign journalists and a British diplomat were blocked from entering the courtroom during the trial, which took place on 28 December 2020 before a Shanghai court and lasted less than three hours in total.[8][23][24][25] Foreign media saw the timing of the trial between Christmas and New Year as aiming to minimise attention in Western countries, a device which China had used previously in the trial of other dissidents.[26] Zhang was sentenced to four years imprisonment making her the first citizen journalist to be sentenced for reporting the pandemic in China.[2][27][28] She is represented by several lawyers including Ren Quanniu and Zhang Keke.[8] She declined to appeal her conviction, telling her lawyers that she saw the legal process used to imprison her as legally invalid.[3]

Zhang was hospitalized in Shanghai on 31 July 2021 after staging a long-running hunger strike, according to a message from her mother on Chinese social media. Her mother also stated on social media that Zhang was weighing less than 40 kilograms, half her body weight from before her detention.[29] On 2 August, after notification from and on request of authorities,[30] her parents and brother went to Shanghai to visit Zhang in prison but were only given permission to speak with her over the phone.[7] Zhang returned to prison on 11 August.[3] Subsequently, her health appeared to deteriorate further according to her mother, who told Radio Free Asia that her daughter, with whom she had spoken in a video call on 28 October, could not walk unassisted and was drooping her head.[4]

Reactions

United States

The United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement that "The United States strongly condemns the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) sham prosecution and conviction of citizen journalist Zhang Zhan on December 28".[31][32]

European Union

The European Union has called for her to be released immediately.[33] They also called for the release of human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, and several others detained and convicted human rights defenders and reporters in China. An EU foreign policy spokesman, Peter Stano stated "according to credible sources, Ms Zhang has been subject to torture and ill-treatment during her detention and her health condition has seriously deteriorated".[34][35]

United Kingdom

The Embassy of the United Kingdom, Beijing said her case "raises serious concerns about media freedom in China" and that she was one of at least 47 journalists currently (December 2020) in detention in China for their coronavirus reporting; the statement called on the Chinese government for their release.[36]

United Nations

The United Nations human rights office said in a tweet that it had "raised her case with the authorities throughout 2020", and that it would continue to call for her release.[37]

Non-governmental organizations

In a joint letter to Chinese leader Xi Jinping posted on 17 September 2021, a coalition of 45 non-governmental organizations, including RSF, called for Zhang to be exonerated and for her "immediate" release due to her health condition. RSF's East Asia bureau head Cédric Alviani said that Zhang "should never have been arrested, let alone subjected to a harsh prison sentence".[38]

Personal life

Zhang was born in Xianyang, Shaanxi, and graduated in finance at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics. She is a practicing Christian.[1][39][40][41]

References

  1. ^ a b 网易 (2020-12-28). "张展案开庭并当庭宣判". www.163.com. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  2. ^ a b c Nectar Gan and James Griffiths. "Chinese journalist who documented Wuhan coronavirus outbreak jailed for 4 years". CNN. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Chang Chien, Amy; Ramzy, Austin (25 August 2021). "Chinese Citizen who documented Wuhan outbreak falls ill in prison hunger strike". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  4. ^ a b Lu, Xi (2021-11-02). "Jailed Wuhan COVID-19 journalist 'close to death' in Chinese prison". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 2021-11-03.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Guo, Rui (2020-05-18). "Chinese citizen journalist detained after live-streaming on coronavirus from Wuhan". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2021-11-02.
  6. ^ Reuters Staff (2020-12-28). "China jails citizen-journalist for four years over Wuhan virus reporting". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  7. ^ a b c d Wu, Huizhong (2021-08-17). "Imprisoned Chinese citizen journalist not well, lawyer says". Associated Press. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Zhang Zhan: China jails citizen journalist for Wuhan reports". BBC News. 2020-12-28. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  9. ^ Chang, Chris (2020-06-24). "Chinese journalist prosecuted for reporting on Wuhan outbreak". Taiwan News. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  10. ^ a b "Covid-19 journalist tortured for exposing truth". www.amnesty.org.uk. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  11. ^ a b Qiao, Long; Wong, Lok (2020-06-22). "Wuhan Citizen Journalist Formally Arrested, Held in Shanghai Detention Center". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 2021-10-30.
  12. ^ "雨傘運動上海發酵 維權律師張展舉傘撐民主被囚65日" (in Chinese). Radio Free Asia. 2019-11-26. Retrieved 2021-10-30.
  13. ^ "China sentences lawyer who reported on outbreak to 4 years". AP NEWS. 2020-12-28. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  14. ^ Wang, Vivian (2020-12-26). "She Chronicled China's Crisis. Now She Is Accused of Spreading Lies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  15. ^ Board, Editorial. "Opinion | What is China trying to hide about the coronavirus?". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  16. ^ a b "Citizen journalist detained over Wuhan reporting 'restrained and fed by tube'". The Guardian. 2020-12-10. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  17. ^ a b Inocencio, Ramy; Qi, Grace. "Chinese citizen journalist detained for reporting on Wuhan coronavirus outbreak "may not survive"". CBS News. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29. Zhang is restrained 24 hours a day with a belt around her waist and both hands tied to prevent her from pulling out a feeding tube
  18. ^ Chen, Laurie. "Chinese citizen journalist jailed for four years for Wuhan virus reporting". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  19. ^ Xiao Shan (小山) (4 August 2021). "张展狱中绝食送医" [Zhang Zhan on hunger strike in prison, admitted to hospital]. RFI (in Chinese). Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  20. ^ a b Davidson, Helen (2020-11-16). "Citizen journalist facing jail in China for Wuhan Covid reporting". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  21. ^ "Report submitted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention — Addendum: Visit to the People's Republic of China, 1997" (PDF). United Nations. 22 December 1997. Archived (PDF) from the original on 29 December 2020. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  22. ^ "Chinese Lawyer-Turned-Citizen Journalist Gets Four Years For Wuhan Posts". Radio Free Asia. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  23. ^ Qi, Grace. "Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan sentenced for reporting early on COVID in Wuhan". CBS News. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29.
  24. ^ "Chinese court jails citizen journalist Zhang Zhan for Wuhan reports". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  25. ^ "Virus Outbreak: Chinese citizen-journalist jailed for virus reporting - Taipei Times". www.taipeitimes.com. 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  26. ^ AFP (2020-12-28). "Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan jailed for 4 years over Wuhan Covid-19 reporting". Hong Kong Free Press. Retrieved 2021-10-30.
  27. ^ Wang, Vivian (2020-12-28). "Chinese Citizen Journalist Sentenced to 4 Years for Covid Reporting". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  28. ^ Guo, Rui (2020-12-28). "China jails citizen journalist for four years over Wuhan coronavirus reports". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  29. ^ Chan, Emily (2021-08-23). "Blogger on Hunger Strike Loses Half Her Bodyweight in Chinese Prison". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 2021-10-30.
  30. ^ "Fears for health of Chinese citizen journalist on hunger strike after being jailed for COVID-19 coverage". ABC News. 2021-08-17. Retrieved 2021-10-30.
  31. ^ Fromer, Jacob (2020-12-29). "US and EU demand China release Zhang Zhan, who covered Wuhan outbreak". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  32. ^ "On the Silencing and Prosecution of PRC Citizen Journalist Zhang Zhan". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2021-01-01.
  33. ^ "EU demands China release citizen-journalist Zhang Zhan who reported on Covid-19". France 24. 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2021-01-01.
  34. ^ Reuters Staff (2020-12-29). "EU criticises China for jailing citizen-journalist who reported on COVID". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  35. ^ "U.S. And EU Condemn Jailing Of Lawyer Who Reported On Coronavirus In Wuhan". NPR.org. Retrieved 2021-01-01.
  36. ^ Oxner, Reese (2020-12-29). "U.S. And EU Condemn Jailing Of Lawyer Who Reported On Coronavirus In Wuhan". NPR. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  37. ^ Nebehay, Stephanie (2020-12-28). "UN rights office decries jail term for citizen-journalist in China's Wuhan". Reuters. Retrieved 2021-11-03.
  38. ^ Yang, Sophia (2021-09-21). "45 NGOs urge China to immediately free journalist who reported on COVID". Taiwan News. Retrieved 2021-10-09.
  39. ^ Cachila, Julio (2020-12-28). "Zhang Zhan: Christian Citizen Journalist Sentenced To Four Years In Prison For Wuhan Virus Reports". Christianity Daily. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  40. ^ "China: Fears for health of Christian activist on hunger strike in detention". www.csw.org.uk. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  41. ^ "Wuhan Citizen Journalist Formally Arrested, Held in Shanghai Detention Center". Radio Free Asia. Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-12-29.

External links

Media files used on this page

Zhang Zhan.png
Author/Creator: Worldify, Licence: CC BY 3.0
Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan