(ChinaAid, Midland, TX) Imprisoned Zhang Zhan, a Christian Chinese lawyer born September 2, 1983, the first citizen journalist the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) tried for challenging China’s “official narrative” of its pandemic response, faces the risk of dying from her prayer fast (hunger strike). Currently imprisoned in the Shanghai City Women’s Prison, Ms. Zhang, 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighed approximately 165 pounds prior to her arrest. She now weighs less than 90 pounds, according to a message her mother sent to Zhang Kekeher, Ms. Zhang’s former lawyer.
On May 14, 2020, after Ms. Zhang had previously published videos critical of the Chinese government’s COVID-19 response, Shanghai police cross-provincially arrested her. ChinaAid’s research and news reports confirm that in December 2020, a CCP court sentenced her to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that due to Ms. Zhang continuing her hunger strike since her arrest, she was hospitalized on July 31 but later transported back to the Shanghai City Women’s Prison.
The following timeline highlights Ms. Zhang’s case:
- In 2019, Ms. Zhang began to repost information (videos and images) on social media platforms such as WeChat regarding the Hong Kong protests.
- On September 9, 2019, Shanghai Huangpu District Police officers detained Ms. Zhang on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” During this time, authorities subjected her to mandatory “psychiatric evaluation” twice.
- On November 26, 2019, authorities released Ms. Zhang.
- In early 2020, due to the spread of COVID-19 in Wuhan, Ms. Zhang traveled there to conduct a field investigation, and report on the situation.
- On May 14, 2020, CCP authorities arrested Ms. Zhang. At this time, she started her hunger strike.
- On May 16, 2020, Shanghai Huangpu District Police officials criminally detained Mrs. Zhang on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.”
- On June 19, 2020, the Pudong New Area People’s procuratorate approved Ms. Zhang’s case.
- At the end of June 2020, Ms. Zhang began an uninterrupted food and water hunger strike.
- At the beginning of July 2020, prison officials began to force-feed water and food to Ms. Zhang.
- At the beginning of September 2020, news about Ms. Zhang’s hunger strike and ensuing force-feeding began to reach the outside world.
- On September 18, 2020, authorities transferred Ms. Zhang’s case to the Shanghai Pudong New Area People’s Court.
- At the end of October 2020, Ms. Zhang’s lawyer intervened and revealed that she had been on a hunger strike for five months to protest being forced to plead guilty.
- In November 2020, the prosecution recommended that the court sentence Ms. Zhang to five years in prison. With the revelation of the indictment letter, Ms. Zhang’s case began to gain international attention.
- After Ms. Zhang’s meeting with her lawyer at the end of November 2020, the public learned of her hunger strike and about correctional officers force-feeding her.
- After Lawyer Ren Quanniu met with Ms. Zhang in December 2020, he revealed that she looked nothing like her old self. She told Lawyer Ren, “Every day was tormentful [sic].”
- On December 28, 2020, the court sentenced Ms. Zhang to four years in prison (until May 13, 2024) for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.”
Shortly after being imprisoned, during a visit with her previous lawyer, Ms. Zhang said that she realized the value of God’s Word. “I regret not spending more time reading the Bible in the past,” she said.
Ms. Zhang cited 1 Corinthians 10:13: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” She also recounted John 12:24, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
“I will keep praying and pondering over God’s words,” Ms. Zhang said. “God’s words can comfort me.”
Previous ChinaAid posts relating to Ms. Zhang: