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US Expresses Deep Concern Over Disappearance of Chinese Journalist 

Zhang Zhan, a Chinese journalist

United States: The United States has expressed profound unease regarding the vanishing of Zhang Zhan, a Chinese journalist, who was anticipated to be liberated from confinement on Monday.

Zhang, a former attorney, was apprehended in May 2020, approximately a year following her commencement of reporting on COVID-19 from Wuhan, the focal point of the initial coronavirus eruption in China, where she broadcasted live scenarios of hospitals and the regional pandemic counteractions, as per scmp.com.

She was indicted with the accusation of “inciting disputes and instigating unrest” – a sweeping charge frequently employed by authorities to quash opposition – and was condemned to a four-year term of imprisonment.

Subsequent to the scheduled release date, advocacy organizations reported they had yet to receive any communication from Zhang or her kin.

The US Department of State issued a statement on Thursday, expressing profound concern regarding reports that citizen journalist Ms. Zhang Zhan from the People’s Republic of China has vanished after her anticipated liberation from Shanghai Women’s Penitentiary on May 13, according to reports by scmp.com. 

It reiterated appeals to “safeguard the human rights of Ms. Zhang, encompassing the immediate cessation of the restrictive measures imposed on her and all journalists within the PRC, such as surveillance, censorship, harassment, and coercion.”

Zhang was among the scarce citizen journalists in China documenting the early ordeals of individuals in Wuhan amidst the city’s confinement.

She was the first individual to undergo trial for her pandemic reporting in the central Chinese metropolis, and she received the most severe penalty among several notable colleagues, including Chen Qiushi, Li Zehua, and Fang Bin.

Previously, Washington had advocated for Zhang’s release after reports emerged of her significant weight loss and purported detainment in physical restraints, with sustenance administered via a feeding conduit.

Both the United States and the European Union have decried Zhang’s sentencing and demanded her immediate and unconditional release.

Zhang initiated a hunger strike in protest shortly after her arrest and persisted with intermittent fasting during her confinement.

Her family disclosed her perilously diminished weight and her need to utilize a wheelchair during the trial, yet she persevered with her hunger strike, protesting what she deemed an “unlawful detention and indictment,” as outlined by scmp.com. 

In 2021, Zhang was bestowed with the Courage Award at the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Awards. As per the Paris-based advocacy organization, China ranks 172 out of 180 countries in its press freedom index.

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