Persecution watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwise (CSW) has called for the release of a Chinese Christian who is on hunger strike to protest her arbitrary detention.
Human rights defender and former lawyer Zhang Zhan has spent more than 150 days in custody after being detained for posting videos and articles about the Covid-19 outbreak.
Zhan reportedly travelled to Wuhan as everyone was fleeing in order to report on the Government's response to the virus. A source told CSW that Zhan's videos and articles were posted on Twitter and YouTube, both of which are blocked in China, and other social media platforms. "She questioned whether the authorities' response to the epidemic infringed on human rights," the source explained. "She spoke up for Dr Li Wenliang (a doctor detained for whistleblowing at the start of the outbreak) and questioned whether the severity of the outbreak had been covered up. She was deeply concerned about those ordinary, voiceless Wuhan citizens who face destitution, having lost livelihoods in Covid-19.”
The lawyer was arrested by Shanghai police in Wuhan on 14th May, and has been detained at the Pudong District Detention Centre in Shanghai ever since.
According to reports, Zhang has been on hunger strike since the beginning of summer, with staff at the detention centre force-feeding her. Her lawyer was allowed to meet with her for the first time on 18th September.
On 20th September the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers' Group called on the Government to release Zhang, insisting that she had done nothing wrong under Chinese law. Zhang has been mistreated before by the Chinese authorities for her human rights advocacy and support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
She once wrote: “If all that remains in life is fear, then all I can do is to fight fear repeatedly until I cross it. Because if not, all emotions outside of fear are masks. If I were to face God, I would pray sincerely for [the perpetrators] and ask Him to forgive their sins, not because I’m a moral person. Rather, it's that I have to do it.”
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “We call for Zhang Zhan’s immediate and unconditional release, and urge the Chinese government to ensure a safe environment for activists, lawyers and journalists to exercise their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and the peaceful defence of human rights.”