In a joint letter published on 17th September 2021, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and a coalition of 44 human rights NGOs urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to exonerate and release Zhang Zhan, 38, a journalist who covered the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic in the city of Wuhan (Central China).
On 28th December 2020, after a mere three-hour trial, the Shanghai Pudong New Area Court sentenced her to four years in prison for ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’. To demonstrate her innocence, Zhang has been on hunger strike since May 2020, for which she was force-fed through a nasal tube, and is at risk of dying if not immediately released.
“Zhang Zhan did not commit any crime but instead courageously risked her life to inform the public on the health crisis. She should never have been arrested, let alone subjected to a harsh prison sentence”, says the head of RSF East Asia bureau, Cédric Alviani, who urges President Xi Jinping to “ensure that Zhang Zhan is released before it’s too late.”
According to her family, Zhang has lost significant weight and was hospitalised for 11 days in early August but has since been returned to prison despite her deteriorating health. Zhang Zhan was also reportedly the victim of ill treatment and her family has been systematically denied visits.
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 Awardee 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.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Association of Taiwan Journalists
Association of the New School for Democracy
Centre for Human Rights and Development, Mongolia
China Aid Association
China Political Prisoner Concern
Chinese Democracy Education Foundation
Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Consumer Foundation, Mongolia
FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Front Line Defenders
Globe International Center, Mongolia
Government Citizen Partnership, Mongolia
Human Rights in China (HRIC)
Human Rights Now
Human Rights Foundation
Index on Censorship
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Judicial Reform Foundation
LGBT Centre, Mongolia
Mongolian Men’s Union
Mongolian Women's Employment Support Federation
Steps Without Borders, Mongolia
Taiwan Forever Association
Taiwan Media Watch Foundation
Taiwan Media Workers Union
Tuva Women's AVAM Union, Mongolia
The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
The Taiwan Foreign Correspondents’ Club
The Rights Practice
Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP)
Women for Change NGO, Mongolia
Women’s Right in China
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Read the letter in its entirety: