Chinese journalist jailed for Wuhan Covid coverage 'close to death' after hunger striketext_fields
Beijing: An independent Chinese journalist who was jailed for her coverage of China's initial response to Covid in Wuhan is close to death after going on hunger strike, her family said.
A former lawyer, Zhang Zhan had traveled some 400 miles from Shanghai to Wuhan in early February to report on the pandemic and subsequent attempts to contain it, just as the authorities began reining in state-run and private Chinese media.
She was detained in May 2020 and sentenced in December to four years in jail for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble" -- a charge routinely used to suppress dissent.
Her lawyer Zhang Keke, who visited Zhang earlier this month while she was in detention, described on social media that Zhang had a feeding tube attached to her nose and mouth. He said her hands were tied to prevent her from removing the device, and that she suffered from constant headache and pain in her stomach and throat.
She is now severely underweight and "may not live for much longer", her brother Zhang Ju wrote last week on a Twitter account verified by people close to the matter.
"She may not survive the coming cold winter," Zhang Ju wrote, adding that he had urged his sister in letters to "take care of herself".
"In her heart, it seems there is only God and her beliefs, with no care for anything else."
Zhang Ju's posts sparked fresh calls for his sister's release, with Amnesty International urging the Chinese government Thursday to "release her immediately so that she can end her hunger strike and receive the appropriate medical treatment she desperately needs".
Amnesty campaigner Gwen Lee said in a statement that Zhang's detention was a "shameful attack on human rights".
Someone close to the citizen journalist, who declined to be named, told AFP the family had asked to meet Zhang more than three weeks ago at the Shanghai women's prison where she is being held but had not received a response.
AFP was unable to reach Zhang Ju while Zhang's mother declined to comment. The Shanghai prison also offered no response when approached by AFP.
Zhang is among a group of four citizen journalists -- including Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin and Li Zehua -- detained after reporting from Wuhan.