China: RSF urges for release of Covid-19 reporter who faces impending death
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges for the immediate release of Chinese Covid-19 journalist Zhang Zhan, whose health is rapidly deteriorating due to a partial hunger strike and who faces impending death if maintained in detention.
Zhang Zhan, a Chinese journalist who covered the first weeks of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan, was sentenced to four years in prison for ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ by the Shanghai Pudong New Area Court in December 2020. Today, she faces impending death if maintained in detention.
Zhang, 38, who had a recent video call with her family, said that her health has worsened considerably due to the partial hunger strike she has been conducting to protest her innocence. The journalist, whose height is 177 centimetres, now only weighs less than 40 kilograms and cannot walk properly or even raise her head without help. Zhang was last hospitalised in August for 11 days.
“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,” says RSF East Asia Bureau head, Cédric Alviani. “She was only performing her duty as a reporter and should never have been detained, not to mention receive a four-year prison sentence."
In a joint letter published on 17 September 2021, RSF and a coalition of 44 human rights NGOs urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to exonerate and release Zhang Zhan.
Along with Zhang Zhan, at least 10 other press freedom defenders detained in China may soon suffer a deadly fate, including investigative reporter and RSF World Press Freedom Laureate Huang Qi, Swedish publisher Gui Minhai and Uighur journalist Ilham Tohti, recipient of the Václav Havel Prize and Sakharov Prize.
Kunchok Jinpa, a leading source of information about Tibet for journalists, died in February 2021 as a result of mistreatment in detention. Nobel Peace Prize and RSF Press Freedom Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and dissident blogger Yang Tongyan both died in 2017 from cancer that was left untreated in detention.
China, ranked 177th out of 180 in the 2021 RSF World Press Freedom Index, is the world's largest captor of journalists with at least 122 detained.