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Charity calls for the release of Chinese Christian journalist jailed for reporting on Covid

by Kelly Valencia

A Christian charity is calling for the immediate release of a Chinese journalist who was jailed for reporting on the pandemic. 

Zhang Zhan was detained by Shanghai police for her reports from Wuhan on the coronavirus outbreak in May 2020. 

Zhan uploaded videos on YouTube showing overcrowded hospitals, crematoriums and even interviews with people during the early stages of the pandemic. For this, she was convicted on charges of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble", a charge often used by Chinese authorities against human rights campaigners. 

Since then, she has been on partial hunger strikes in protest against her detention but as a consequence, her health has seriously worsened. 

"Her health has critically deteriorated to the point where we are calling for her to be released on medical parole," Claire Denman, deputy press and public affairs team Leader at Christian Solidarity Worldwide told Premier.
"Over the last 15 months her health has declined dramatically. [Her] family hasn't been allowed to visit her, even though she's in a critical condition," Denman continued.

At the time of her detention, Zhang told a friend she felt it was "God's will" for her to report on the pandemic despite the consequences as she had to "tell everyone the truth". 

Zang is one of four known cases of journalists who were accused and imprisoned by the Chinese authorities for "false information through text, video and other media through the internet media such as WeChat, Twitter and YouTube".

After her sentencing trial, Zhang Zhan said to her lawyer during their last meeting in January, "I will continue to fight in a Christian way, even at the cost of my life. I will make them [the Chinese authorities] repent, and I will continue to pray for God's great love to guide me."

CSW's founder president, Mervyn Thomas said, "Ms Zhang has been unlawfully imprisoned for exercising her fundamental rights to freedom of expression. The rapid deterioration in her health is alarming. We urgently call on the Chinese authorities to release Zhang Zhan on medical parole as soon as possible and to ensure she receives prompt and adequate medical care. We further call on the authorities to ensure her family is allowed to meet with her directly and receives timely and accurate information from medical professionals about her condition and status."

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