A citizen journalist jailed for her coverage of China’s initial response to Covid in Wuhan is close to death after going on hunger strike, her family said, prompting renewed calls from rights groups for her immediate release. Zhang Zhan, 38, a former lawyer, travelled to Wuhan in February 2020 to report on the chaos at the pandemic’s epicentre, questioning authorities’ handling of the outbreak in her smartphone videos.
She was detained in May 2020 and sentenced in December to four years in jail for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” - a charge routinely used to suppress dissent. She is now severely underweight and “may not live for much longer”, her Brother Zhang Ju wrote last week on a Twitter account verified by people close to the matter. Meanwhile, a former powerful vice-minister of public security who was sent to Wuhan, the first epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in March, 2020, has been arrested on charges of accepting bribes, state media reported on Friday. Sun Lijun, who was part of a group of top officials dispatched to Wuhan last year following the Covid-19 outbreak in the central Chinese city, was expelled from the Communist Party of China (CPC) in September. A state media report published in September said Sun abandoned his post during the Covid-19 outbreak. “The investigation found that on the frontline of fighting the Covid-19 epidemic, Sun deserted his post. “He also possessed confidential materials without authorisation and engaged in superstitious activities for a long time,” the earlier report said.