World News

Growing concerns about Christian journalist’s whereabouts

40-year-old Zhang Zhan, a lawyer turned citizen journalist, was supposed to be released from prison after four years, but she did not make contact at all.

Zhang Zhan was detained in May 2020 after she travelled to Wuhan to report on Covid-19. She posted several videos on social media, drawing attention to the Chinese government’s oppressive approach, lack of information and harsh lockdown rules. She was sentenced to four years in prison. Human rights groups widely criticised her imprisonment.

The Free Zhang Zhan campaign released a press statement on the 13th of May, highlighting the fact that she had not made contact with anyone, even though she was scheduled to be released. The Chinese government put significant pressure on her family forcing them to refrain from giving any interviews. 

Ms Zhang may have been released with severe restrictions on her movement and communications. The government may have placed her under surveillance. According to Aleksandra Bielakowska, an advocacy officer for Reporters Without Borders in Taiwan, Ms Zhang’s family had limited contact with them and they had “no information” regarding her whereabouts since Monday: “We don’t know if they have been threatened, if they are under surveillance or if they’ve been taken away.”

The press statement reads: “We are left wondering where she is, how she is doing physically and mentally, what’s happened to her family, and what the future holds for her … It is totally unacceptable that the Chinese government subject many human rights defenders and their families to this kind of cruelty. Even after their release from prison, they are still deprived of their basic rights.”

Maya Wang, the associate director in the Asia division at Human Rights Watch, stated: “At the moment we have not had confirmation about Zhang Zhan’s release, which is especially concerning given her very poor health in prison. We fear that, upon release, Zhang will remain under tight police surveillance and restrictions on her movement, as has been the case for too many activists. It is important that the world does not forget brave activists like Zhang, and demand that she be freed without restrictions.”

International Christian Concern has joined other human rights advocacy groups in calling on the Chinese government to provide information on Ms Zhang. This incident is another example of the oppressive regime that arrests Christians, journalists, human rights activists whenever they question the government’s proceedings.



Leave a reply