Zhang Zhan, 38, is a Chinese citizen journalist who was jailed for four years, as a result of exposing the Chinese Communist Party’s deception behind the initial coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China. Now, due to her rapidly deteriorating health, the United States government has requested her immediate release.
While Zhan is not the first journalist to be detained by the CCP, she was the first citizen journalist to be sentenced for reporting on the Chinese Communist Party’s mishandling of the COVID-19 virus outbreak. If granted, her release may encourage other Chinese journalists to speak up against the oppressive authoritarian regime. Throughout China, local news outlets and reporters regularly have stories pulled by due to fears of CCP retaliation. Attacks and on journalists, and their disappearances, are common to those who violate the rules established by the Chinese Communist Party.
After disappearing in May 2020, Zhan was later discovered as detained in a Chinese prison. Conditions within Chinese detention facilities are deficient and unsanitary. Detainees are usually denied basic rights, and ultimately succumb to the inhumane conditions. In June 2020, Zhang Zhan’s hunger strike began.
Zhang Zang was arrested for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, and sentenced to four years of prison. While in prison, in protest of her sentence, Zhang Zhan began her hunger strike. Eventually, due to her extreme loss of weight, Zhan was eventually restrained and force-fed by the CCP captives through a feeding tube painfully inserted into her nose.
Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer, traveled to Wuhan to report shocking footage from China’s over-crowded funeral homes, where CCP officials ordered the health workers to burn the countless bodies in incinerators. Zhan also shared footage on social media of the overflowing population of Chinese hospitals. Upon her arrest, this footage was banned and suppressed by the CCP.
The resistance against the Chinese Communist Party led to Zhang Zhan’s incarceration and ultimate self-starvation. As her health continues to decline, her family worries she may not make it through the winter. In response, Washington is calling for her release. Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty.org have started petitions to free Zhang Zhan, among countless other voices around the world.
Zhang Ju (Brother) –
“She is so stubborn. I think she may not live long.” Zhan’s brother, Zhang Ju wrote on October 30th, 2021. Zhang Ju stated, at 5’ 9” she weighed only 88lbs. “She may not survive the coming cold winter. I hope the world remember[s] how she used to be.”
Gwen Lee –
“Zhang Zhan, who should never have been jailed in the first place, now appears to be at grave risk of dying in prison. The Chinese authorities must release her immediately so that she can end her hunger strike and receive the appropriate medical treatment she desperately needs,” said Gwen Lee, China Campaigner at Amnesty International.
“The Chinese government’s prosecution of Zhang Zhan, simply because she tried to uncover what was happening in Wuhan amid huge government secrecy about the pandemic, is a shameful attack on human rights.”
Zhang Zhan’s Mother –
Zhang Zhan’s mother stated from a video visit that her daughter (Zhan) was ‘not strong enough to hold up her own head during the call.’
Yaqiu Wang –
“The Chinese government needs to be held to account for allowing yet another peaceful critic to fall gravely ill while unjustly imprisoned,” said Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Governments should call for Zhang Zhan’s urgent release to prevent an already terrible situation from becoming a tragic one.”
“Unjust sentences handed down against activists in China frequently end up being death sentences,” Wang said. “Governments around the world should send a clear message to Beijing that the wrongful arrest and mistreatment of activists needs to stop.”
In America, it is at the discretion of the individual to curate what topics they choose to discuss. This includes freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of press. Separation from freedom and state is an essential component to our western values. Without journalists, America would fall into an authoritative state, for a record of verbal opposition to the potential of government tyranny is our country’s greatest defense.
The freedom to speak is what separates our nation from a communist society, where specific viewpoints and perspectives are applied to everyone, no matter their stance or belief. Yet many “woke” Americans of today, demand socialism as a remedy to our “broken system.” Socialism historically has created the platform for an authoritative dictatorship to exist. That dictatorship oppresses the citizens, and in the case of the Chinese Communist Party, extends to journalism.
Should journalism be illegal? Should multimedia resistance against the state be a crime? As Big Tech continues to dominate the narrative between what is discussed online, is this where America will soon be headed? Is free speech an absolute right?