Home News Rights groups express concern over detained Christian activist in China

Rights groups express concern over detained Christian activist in China

Human rights groups have expressed concern this week for the health of a Christian activist who is on hunger strike to protest her detention in China.

Chinese authorities arrested and detained Zhang Zhan, a human rights defender and former lawyer, on May 14 after reporting the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.

Zhang went on hunger strike since the start of summer and had already lost weight, reported rights groups. She has been refusing to eat or drink but has been force-fed by staff at the detention center.



In early February, Zhang posted videos and articles on social media platforms about the government’s response to what would become a global health crisis. These were blocked in China.

Zhang’s reporting raised questions on whether Beijing’s response to the coronavirus pandemic infringed on human rights.

A source, who spoke with the group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said Zhang “was deeply concerned about those ordinary, voiceless Wuhan citizens who face destitution, having lost livelihoods” during the health crisis.

The human rights activist continued her reporting despite news that three other citizen journalists — Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin, and Li Zehua — disappeared.

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Zhang was nabbed by Shanghai authorities from her hotel room in Wuhan and detained at the Pudong District Detention Center.

She was charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Her case was sent to the district court only on Sept. 18.

She has refused to plead guilty to the charges against her.

Mervyn Thomas of CSW called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of Zhang.

He urged the Chinese government “to ensure a safe environment for activists, lawyers, and journalists to exercise their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and the peaceful defense of human rights.”

On Sept. 20, the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers’ Group issued a statement urging authorities to release the activist.

The group said that Zhang’s behavior is in “full compliance” with China’s Constitution and laws, and “does not constitute any illegal or crime.”

The group stressed that the arrest, detention, and charges filed against Zhang “are completely illegal and political.”

The lawyers urged the courts to “conduct the trial without delay” and to release Zhang on humanitarian considerations.

Zhang was a practicing lawyer until authorities revoked her license due to her activism.

In September 2019, she was arrested and detained for 60 days for supporting the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

CSW reported that Zhang “suffered severe mistreatment during her previous detention.”

“She spent seven days in solitary confinement, during which her hands and feet were tied to the floor, making it impossible to go to the toilet. She was in poor health after her release [in 2019],” CSW said.

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