Jailed Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan is close to death following months of intermittent hunger strikes in protest at her jailing, RFA has learned.
Zhang, 37, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment by Shanghai’s Pudong District People’s Court on Dec. 28, 2020, and has been eating very little food, rather than refusing anything, to avoid being force-fed by tube.
“I don’t think she’s going to live much longer,” Zhang’s brother Zhang Ju said via his Twitter account at the weekend.
“If she doesn’t make it through the coming winter, I hope the world will remember her as she once was,” he added.
He said Zhang currently weighs less than 40 kilograms, despite being 1.78 meters tall.
One of a group of citizen journalists detained, jailed, or “disappeared” after they went to the central city of Wuhan to cover the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zhang was sent for medical treatment at the end of July for malnutrition following several months of hunger strike in a Shanghai prison.
Zhang pleaded not guilty at her trial, where she appeared in court in a wheelchair. A guilty plea is typically a prerequisite for more lenient treatment in China’s judicial system under the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Zhang Zhan’s mother had a video call with her daughter on Oct. 28, and told RFA that her health seems to have deteriorated.
“She can’t walk unassisted now, and her head keeps drooping as she speaks,” her mother said. “She will be in huge danger if they don’t release her on medical parole.”
“I cried for several hours straight after I got out [from the video meeting],” she said.
Gansu-based rights activist Li Dawei said Zhang has persisted with her hunger strike despite desperate pleas from her own family.