Update: After half a year in prison on hunger strike—Lawyer Zhang Zhan appears “… barely recognizable…”

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Lawyer Zhang Zhan pictured before becoming "barely recognizable."
(Photo: ChinaAid)

(Shanghai [not part of a province]—Dec. 20, 2020) On December 17, following a visit with Lawyer Zhang Zhan in Pudong District Detention Center in Shanghai, Ms. Zhang’s defense lawyer, Ren Quanniu, reported that she appeared frail, shaky and “... barely recognizable….” Nine days earlier, when Attorney Zhang Keke, another representative for Ms. Zhang visited with her, he stated that due to her hunger strike, being force-fed, and tortured, her health had dramatically deteriorated.

Lawyer Ren Quanniu recounted his visit with Ms. Zhang Zhan in meeting room 115 at the Shanghai detention center:

After waiting for more than 10 minutes in the meeting room, I saw an unsteady, tall figure wearing pink pajamas, swaying side to side on the opposite side of the door. Although I had known Ms. Zhang over the internet for several years, we had never met in person. As we were both wearing masks, I asked, "Is this Zhang Zhang?"


 "Yes," she answered softly.


 I removed my mask so she could see my face. Ms. Zhang recognized me. When she removed her mask, however, she did not look the same as when we had communicated online. She had been “stripped" of any resemblance to her previous photos on the internet. She is so thin ... almost unrecognizable, I thought, like skin and bones.”


 During our conversation, Ms. Zhang's sat on the metal tiger chair (a tool used for torture). As guards had restrained both her hands to her waist with a constraint strap, she had only limited movement of her elbows and arms. I noticed that plastic tubes had been inserted into her nose to feed her and counter her hunger strike. Because she was so weak and shaky, I told her not to speak too much.


Nevertheless, despite her frail, weakened condition, Ms. Zhang clearly communicated. She explained why she cannot disregard the evil and injustice around her; that she cannot tolerate the misery happening in her surroundings. “I want to stand firm in my faith and do what I believe to be right before God,” she stressed. “I cannot accept lies nor deceit and I’m even more unwilling to coexist with darkness.


“My hunger strike is not for me,” Ms. Zhang said, “but to protest the unjust and unrighteousness. I believe in Christ, and I often pray to God to forgive the wicked. I pray that He will save those in pain and suffering.”


Ms. Zhang’s words indicate that her hunger strike is to express an unyielding attitude not to cooperate with evil oppression. For as many days as the “great brightness” (prevailing justice) she hopes for does not materialize, and as long as oppression still exists—she will continue to fast, Ms. Zhang said.

Ms. Zhang officially began her hunger strike at the end of June, while being detained before the court’s sentencing. Since that time, prison officials have forcibly intubated and fed her through a tube five times. At this time, Ms. Zhang has had a feeding tube inserted in her nose for more than two months and authorities have kept her hands constrained for three.

Ms. Wang Jianhong, an advocate for Ms. Zhang, stated: “Long-term nasogastric intubation causes illnesses. A person’s physical health can rapidly deteriorate from this procedure. Every second of intubation not only feels like torment to Ms. Zhang—but also puts her life at risk.

Due to Ms. Zhang’s resolve to continue fasting, Lawyer Ren perceives her condition as critical. He has requested that the court release Ms. Zhang on bail and postpone her scheduled December 28 trial date. 

The court denied Lawyer Ren’s petition, based on the detention center’s report stating that physicallyMs. Zhang does not have a problem. 

As noted in one of ChinaAid’s previous posts, the court sentenced 37-year-old Ms. Zhang to serve four to five years in prison for her reports on the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan. 

In recognition of Ms. Zhang's case: 

  • Numerous netizens have posted online that the Chinese government caused the death of Li Wenliang, a whistleblower of the COVID-19 outbreak. Nevertheless, officials have, on one hand, painted him as a martyr, yet on the other, cruelly persecute Zhang Zhan, another whistleblower.

  • In December, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) noted “ten most urgent” cases of injustice against journalists and lists Zhang Zhan as one of the top five.

  •   Amnesty International’s regional office in Germany called upon the Chinese government to release Zhang Zhan immediately and unconditionally unless sufficient credible and admissible evidence reveals she has committed an internationally recognized offense and China grants her a fair trial aligned with international standards.

  • The European Union publicly called upon the Chinese government to immediately release all captured and detained persons for their news reporting activities; specifically mentioning and requesting that China release Zhang Zhan.

Notice of Zhang Zhan’s case; informing of her trial date scheduled for December 28.
(Photo: ChinaAid)


Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, 
And put your trust in the Lord.

                                                ~ Psalm 4:5 (NKJV)

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