Detained citizen journalist Zhang Zhan was able to speak to her mother through a 20-minute video call on January 28, 2022. During the call, Zhang Zhan mentioned that she had stopped the partial hunger strike so that the authorities won’t force-feed her anymore. While Zhang’s mother noticed that her health may have slightly improved, it is unclear whether Zhang Zhan has access to adequate medical care, including an assessment by a medical professional even after she fell critically ill for a few months in 2021. Chinese authorities must ensure that Zhang Zhan has access to adequate medical care, including a thorough medical check-up. Pending her release, she must also be allowed regular access to her family and a lawyer of her choice, and she must not be subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.
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Director Chen Jianhua
Director of Shanghai Municipal Women’s Prison
No 1601, Zhangjing Road, Sijing Zhen,
Songjiang Qu, Shanghai 201601
People’s Republic of China
Ambassador Qin Gang
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
3505 International Place NW
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: 202 495 2266 / Fax: 202 495 2138
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Ambassador
Dear Director Chen,
I am writing to express concern for citizen journalist Zhang Zhan (张展)
, who is currently serving her jail term at Shanghai Women’s Prison, a detention facility under your supervision. Zhang Zhan was sentenced to four years in prison under the charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” (寻衅滋事罪). A prisoner of conscience imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression when she reported about COVID-19, Zhang Zhan should be released immediately and unconditionally.
I am relieved to hear that on January 28, 2022, Zhang Zhan was able to speak via a video call to her mother, who said she noticed that Zhang Zhan’s health may have slightly improved. Given that she was in critical condition for the past few months, Zhang Zhan must be allowed access to adequate medical care, including a thorough medical check-up by a medical professional. Her family submitted a medical bail application on November 15, 2021, when Zhang Zhan’s health was in critical condition, but they have not received any response to date. If the medical report shows that Zhang Zhan health conditions fit the criteria for medical bail, the authorities must grant this medical bail application before her health deteriorates again.
In the same video call, Zhang Zhan mentioned she had stopped her partial hunger strike just so prison authorities would no longer force-feed her. Zhang Zhan had experienced being forcibly fed while in detention since she started the hunger strike in June 2020 in protest at her incarceration.
Having said that, I am also worried that it is unclear whether Zhang Zhan will have regular access to her family and lawyer of her choice. According to “Shanghai Prison Administration Rules for the Communications with inmates” (上海市监狱管理局罪犯会见通信实施细则), each inmate is allowed to meet with their family members once a month and for a minimum of 20 minutes. It is important for her family members and lawyer to be able to visit her in person or at least through video call to enable them to see, communicate with and check on her.
Therefore, I urge you to:
- Release Zhang Zhan immediately as she is imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression when she reported about COVID-19;
- Pending her release, ensure that Zhang Zhan has regular access to her family members and lawyers of her choice; and
- Pending her release, ensure that Zhang Zhan has access to adequate medical care, including by granting her medical bail application to allow her to be assessed by a medical professional, and that she is not subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.