No appeal for China’s jailed coronavirus citizen journalist Zhang Zhan
- The 37-year-old former lawyer has decided not to contest her four-year sentence, imposed for reports from virus-hit Wuhan
- Sources say she was persuaded by detention centre staff one day after a visit from her legal team
The decision brought Zhang’s case to a close this week, after the 37-year-old former lawyer was found guilty by Shanghai Pudong New Area People’s Court at the end of last month. She was convicted for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, a broadly defined offence often used by police to stifle dissent.
Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan sentenced to four years in jail for Wuhan coronavirus reports
According to sources familiar with her case, Zhang, who is being held at a detention centre in Pudong, met her lawyers last Wednesday. She made the decision a day later, after centre staff persuaded her not to appeal.
“She is a Christian. [She understands an] appeal will only aggravate the problem and fuel hostility. She saw no point of appealing,” one of the sources said. “I think she has given up fighting for her health, her life and her legal rights entirely. In her view, her arrest, indictment and conviction were all against the law.”
The source noted that Zhang, who pleaded not guilty, did not really defend herself during the trial, which she attended in a wheelchair because of her poor health.
Zhang began to refuse food soon after her arrest in May last year in protest, and was force-fed during her detention through a nasal tube, which she was physically restrained from removing.
According to a social media post by her lawyer Zhang Keke (no relation), her health continued to be a concern as she was refusing all foods except fruit, biscuits and milk powder.
Zhang’s lawyers have been warned not to give interviews and she is expected to be transferred soon from the Pudong detention centre to prison.
Returning to Wuhan one year since the Chinese city became ground zero of the Covid-19 pandemic
Zhang was one of a few citizen journalists in China to report on the early experiences of people in Wuhan during the city’s lockdown last winter. The others have either been detained or ordered to stop reporting. She is the first to face trial for reporting on the pandemic in Wuhan.
Three other citizen journalists – Chen Qiushi, Li Zehua and Fang Bin – have also been detained for their coverage of the pandemic in Wuhan.
Chen, a former lawyer, has been held since September under “supervised surveillance at a designated residence” in the eastern city of Qingdao, Shandong province. Li reappeared on Chinese social media in late April but the fate of Fang, a Wuhan resident and high-profile blogger, remains unknown.