US asks China to free jailed Wuhan citizen journalist

US asks China to free jailed Wuhan citizen journalist
China citizen journalist Zhang Zhan had been described in recent media reports as being 'near death' from her deteriorating health. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times: The United States has urged China to release citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, expressing deep concerns over her deteriorating health.

She was given a four-year jail term over her reporting of the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan when the pandemic began.

The journalist, a 38-year-old former lawyer, has been on an intermittent hunger strike since she was detained in May last year.

The US moves comes after reports that Ms Zhang is perilously close to death.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters: “We have repeatedly expressed our serious concerns about the arbitrary nature of her detention and her mistreatment during it. We reiterate our call to the PRC for her immediate and unconditional release.”

Zhang had initially travelled to Wuhan in February 2020 after reading an online post by a resident about life in the city during the outbreak.

Once there, she began documenting what she saw on the hospitals and streets in livestreams and essays, despite threats by authorities, and her reports were widely shared on social media

In May, Zhang Zhan was found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” – a charge that is commonly levelled against whistle blowers and activists seen as undermining the government’s efforts to control information in the country.

The citizen journalist started a hunger strike in protest while in jail. Since then, she has drastically lost weight and reportedly been held in physical restraints and force-fed through a tube.

Her family have sought medical parole amidst fears she will not make it through the winte, thopugh her brother told Hong Kong media that the chance of approval is ‘extremely slim’.

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