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Chinese journalist held for Wuhan COVID coverage 'underweight, may not survive'

Zhang Zhan, a 38-year-old former lawyer, went to Wuhan in February 2020 to report on the pandemic's disarray, criticising authorities' handling of the epidemic in her smartphone recordings.

Chinese journalist held for Wuhan COVID coverage underweight may not survive gcw
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Beijing, First Published Nov 5, 2021, 2:08 PM IST
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A citizen journalist imprisoned in Wuhan for her coverage of China's early response to Covid is nearing death after going on hunger strike, according to her family, sparking increased appeals from rights groups for her immediate release. Zhang Zhan, a 38-year-old former lawyer, went to Wuhan in February 2020 to report on the pandemic's disarray, criticising authorities' handling of the epidemic in her smartphone recordings. She was arrested in May 2020 and sentenced to four years in prison in December for "picking quarrels and causing commotion," a charge commonly used to stifle dissent.

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Her brother, Zhang Ju, stated last week on a Twitter account corroborated by sources close to the case that she is now severely underweight and "may not live for much longer." According to her legal team, Zhang has been on a hunger strike and has been force-fed through nasal tubes. He warned that she might not make it through the upcoming hard winter and that he had pushed his sister to look after herself in letters. Amnesty International urged the Chinese government on Thursday to "free her immediately so that she can cease her hunger strike and receive the essential medical treatment she sorely needs" in response to Zhang Ju's remarks.

According to Amnesty campaigner Gwen Lee, Zhang's imprisonment is a "shameful infringement on human rights." Someone close to the citizen journalist, who declined to be identified, told AFP that the family had requested to visit Zhang at the Shanghai women's prison where she was kept more than three weeks ago but had not gotten a response. Zhang, according to Reporters Without Borders, is now unable to move or even raise her head without help. Zhang is one of four citizen journalists jailed after reporting from Wuhan, Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin, and Li Zehua.

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