The European Union pleaded for Zhang Zhan, the citizen journalist from Shanghai, who was sentenced to 4 years in prison after posting reports on hospitals in China on social media. Brussels especially wants Zhang Zhan to be immediately released.
According to Josep Borrell, spokesman for the head of European diplomacy, the EU also calls on China to give back their freedoms to those unjustly imprisoned and deprived of their freedom of expression. They include, in particular, human rights defenders and personalities imprisoned following the disclosure of “ information of public interest ”.
Zhang Zhan is not the only citizen journalist imprisoned after reporting the events that unfolded in Wuhan at the start of the pandemic. Three other citizen journalists, namely Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin and Li Zehua also suffered the same fate.
Zhang Zhan imprisoned since mid-May
Last February, Zhang Zhan traveled to Wuhan, the cradle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 38-year-old journalist reported on the plight of patients and frontline healthcare workers in the city's hospitals. Zhan's articles shed light on “ a serious human rights violation ” that occurred in Wuhan at the very start of containment.
His arrest dates back to a few months ago. Accused of " provoking unrest " and having spread false information on the internet, the former Shanghai lawyer has been detained since mid-May in a center located in the Pudong district of Shanghai.
Zhang Zhan's trial took place on December 28, 2020 at the Pudong People's Court. Journalists, foreign diplomats and his supporters were not allowed to attend.
Zhang Zhan refuses all food
Some time after his arrest, Zhang Zhan went on a hunger strike. According to her lawyers, she has been force-fed through a nasal tube since June.
A week before the verdict, the journalist, convinced that she would not survive a life in prison, said she intended to " refuse all food until the end " if ever she was found guilty.
According to Zhang Keke, one of the lawyers who defended Zhang Zhan, "she attended the trial in a wheelchair and was in poor health ." In addition, Zhang Zhan's depression is currently at its height. Her other lawyer, Ren Quanniu, said she "looked very dejected when the judgment was announced ."