State Department Urges China to Release Jailed Journalist Zhang Zhan


  • The US State Department is calling on China to release citizen journalist Zhang Zhan.
  • Zhang, known for her reporting in Wuhan during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, was jailed in December.
  • The State Department’s call for Zhang’s release follows reports that she is close to death after going on a hunger strike.

The US State Department is urging the Chinese government to release jailed citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, who is known for her reporting in Wuhan during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We have repeatedly expressed our serious concerns about the arbitrary nature of her detention and her mistreatment during it,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, per The New York Times

The State Department’s call for China to release the journalist comes after it was reported that Zhang, 38, who went on a hunger strike while in detention, is close to death.

Zhang’s brother, Zhang Ju, released a statement last week saying his sister is on the verge of death and may perish in the coming months. In his tweet, Zhang Ju said his sister, who went on a hunger strike in detention, only weighs around 88 pounds now despite being 5 feet 8 inches tall.

“She may not survive the coming cold winter. I hope the world remembers how she used to be,” wrote Zhang Ju in a tweet on October 30. 

According to a November 3 statement from the nonprofit organization Reporters Without Borders, Zhang Zhan can no longer walk properly or raise her head without help. 

“We call on the international community to apply pressure to the Chinese regime and secure Zhang Zhan’s immediate release before it is too late, said Reporters Without Borders East Asia Bureau head Cédric Alviani in the organization’s November 3 statement. She was only performing her duty as a reporter and should never have been detained, not to mention receive a four-year prison sentence.”

Zhang, a former lawyer, went to Wuhan last February. She released investigative reports via smartphone videos that questioned how the Chinese authorities were handling the coronavirus outbreak, per the AFP. Zhang, an independent journalist, was known for live-streaming footage from Wuhan and uploading it to platforms like Twitter and YouTube. She was arrested last May and sentenced in December on the charge of  “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”

The State Department previously called for Zhang’s release in a statement in December, following her sentencing.

“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. We call on the PRC government to release her immediately and unconditionally,” read a statement from then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“Her hasty trial, to which foreign observers were denied access, shows how fearful the CCP is of Chinese citizens who speak the truth,” Pompeo said. “The PRC government’s fear of transparency and its ongoing repression of fundamental freedoms are a sign of weakness, not strength, and a threat to all of us.”

Three other citizen journalists — Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin, and Li Zehua — were also detained after they published reports from Wuhan. Li and Chen have since resurfaced, but Fang has been incommunicado since his detention last March. 





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