A citizen journalist detained in Shanghai after she reported on the emerging coronavirus epidemic in the central Chinese city of Wuhan has lost weight after refusing food in a police-run detention center, her lawyer said on Monday.Zhang Zhan, 37, faces prosecution on charges of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," a charge often used to target peaceful critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, but has resisted pressure from police to "confess," her lawyer Wen Yu told RFA."I met with her at 10.00 a.m., for about 50 minutes," Wen said. "She has lost a lot of weight."Zhang told Wen she is still refusing food in protest at her detention."I told her to take care of her health ... to get ready for the trial, which is likely to be soon, maybe in October," Wen said.Last week, the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers' Group called on the government to release Zhang, citing illegal restrictions on meetings with lawyers and procedural violations in the handling of her case.It said nothing she had done in Wuhan had broken any Chinese law, and that Zhang had merely been exercising her constitutional rights."Her arrest by the Shanghai police and her prosecution are completely illegal ... [This is] political persecution targeting Zhang Zhan," it said."Zhang Zhan has been on a hunger strike for many days and is weak," the statement said. "She should be declared innocent and released immediately."Posts on social mediaAccording to Wen, the charge against Zhang all relate to comments or posts she made to social media platforms including WeChat, Twitter, and YouTube."We will be pleading not guilty based on her right to freedom of speech," Wen said.But lawyer Chen Jiangang, who is also a member of the China Human Rights Lawyers Group, said he wasn't optimistic about Zhang's case."The real reason Zhang Zhan was accused of committing a crime was that she relayed the truth about what was happening in Wuhan to to the outside world, and talked about her personal reactions to it," Chen said."There is no crime here, even under Chinese law ... but Zhang will soon be sent to prison," he said.'Friends are very worried'Wang Jianhong, director of the U.S.-based rights group Humanitarian China, said there are growing concerns for Zhang's health."Friends are very worried about her health since we learned about her hunger strike," Wang said, adding that around 300 people have signed a petition calling for her release."We just wanted to speak out to say that there was no crime in Zhang Zhan's comments," he said. "This is basic common sense."Zhang, who lives in Shanghai but who traveled to Wuhan in early February, was taken away from Wuhan's Caiguang Hotel near Hankou railway station on the night of May 14.She was held by police near her home in Shanghai's Pudong district, then formally arrested on that charge on June 19 on the orders of the Pudong state prosecutor, and is currently being held in the Pudong Detention Center.She recently "dismissed" her defense attorney, Ren Quanniu, who had been hired by her mother, her mother told RFA in a recent interview.Zhang has been force-fed in detention after she started a hunger strike to protest against her treatment.Reported by Qiao Long and Gigi Lee for RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
Chinese lawyer-turned-citizen journalist Chen Qiushi, who was detained after reporting from the front line of the coronavirus epidemic in the central city of Wuhan, remains "under the supervision" of the authorities, a close friend has said.Chen's friend and mixed martial arts (MMA) star Xu Xiaodong said via a statement on YouTube that Chen is in good health, but has yet to return home."[Chen] Qiushi is still under the supervision of a certain agency and hasn't come home yet," Xu said."According to sources in China, Hong Kong and Japan, he has no money ... and never incited anyone [to subversion]," Xu said. "He has never been in touch with any opposition groups overseas.""For the time being, there will be no prosecution or trial."Taiwan's Central News Agency also quoted friends of Chen's as saying he remains under incommunicado detention.Chen was taken away by police on Feb. 6 after he started livestreaming from hospitals in Wuhan.Similar treatment was meted out to rights activist and citizen journalist Fang Bin, who was detained on Feb. 9, and to a former anchor with state broadcaster CCTV, Li Zehua, who was detained on Feb. 26.One of Chen's last broadcasts was from the newly built prefabricated hospital in Wuhan, which he had reached on a borrowed electric motor scooter, and which he described as "not fit to house infectious disease patients, as it was obviously designed to be a battlefield hospital."'I will carry on reporting'In a video posted about the events of Jan. 29, Chen had already expressed concerns that the authorities were on his trail."I have the coronavirus in my face, and the entire law enforcement system of China on my tail," he said. "But I will carry on reporting from Wuhan for as long as I am still alive.""If I'm not afraid to die, why would I fear the Communist Party?"Meanwhile, authorities in Beijing have denied an application for bail for former Tsinghua University professor Geng Xiaonan and her husband, who were detained after she spoke out on behalf of a number of prominent Chinese dissidents, including Chen Qiushi.A Sept. 16 notice issued by the Beijing police depart rejected Geng's lawyer's bail application.Geng and her husband were detained earlier this month on suspicion of "illegal business activities" linked to the publishing company they run together.The U.S. State Department has expressed concern about their detention.U.S.-based lawyer Chen Jiangang said China's legal system has no concept of rule of law, and functions simply to further the interests of the ruling Chinese Communist Party."China does not have the rule of law, only the rule of man," Chen Jiangang told RFA in a recent interview."The law is only applied to limit and suppress, and is of no use when it comes to ensure that the authorities govern according to law," he said, adding that the problem has worsened under the rule of general secretary Xi Jinping.He said defense attorneys are of little use, because China's party-controlled judicial system limits what they can do.Reported by Mia Ping-Chieh Chen for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
Authorities in Shanghai are moving ahead with the prosecution of a citizen journalist who reported on the emerging coronavirus epidemic in the central Chinese city of Wuhan earlier this year.Zhang Zhan, who lives in Shanghai but who traveled to Wuhan in early February, was taken away from Wuhan's Caiguang Hotel near Hankou railway station on the night of May 14.She was held by police near her home in Shanghai's Pudong district on suspicion of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," a charge frequently used to target peaceful critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.Zhang was then formally arrested on that charge on June 19 on the orders of the Pudong state prosecutor, and is currently being held in the Pudong Detention Center.She recently dismissed her defense attorney, Ren Quanniu, who had been hired by her mother, her mother told RFA in a recent interview.Zhang is currently being force-fed in detention after she started a hunger strike to protest against her treatment."I don’t know what to do now," her mother told RFA. "Only Ren can take this case, although he's from out of town and it's a long way for him to come.""This will affect Zhang Zhan's whole life," she said. "I am worried that things could get serious if this goes on for a long time."However, she declined to comment on Zhang's hunger strike.Zhang's father declined to comment when contacted by RFA."I can't talk right now: I am driving and I am on the expressway," he said.Pressured by policeRen said the family is currently under pressure from state security police in Shanghai."Zhang Zhan's mother didn't want to end my instruction, but ... the state security police were putting pressure on her, so it was hard for her to decide," he said.He said he had been told "don't come any more," by state prosecutor Zhao Xing of the Shanghai municipal procuratorate, who said the decision to fire Ren had come from Zhang's family.Zhao told him that another lawyer had been hired by the authorities to replace him."I will continue to act as [an informal] representative," Ren told RFA.A friend of the Zhang family surnamed Wang said Shanghai police had initially tried to have Zhang Zhan committed to a psychiatric hospital, but the family refused to allow this, so the plan was dropped in favor of pressing criminal charges.Solidarity with Hong KongZhang, 40, was detained by police in Shanghai in September 2019 for holding up an umbrella in solidarity with the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement on the streets of Shanghai, and demanding an end to Communist Party rule.She was released after 65 days in detention, during which time she went on hunger strike twice.Zhang moved to Shanghai from the northern province of Shaanxi in 2010, and formerly worked as a lawyer before official retaliation took away her license to practice.In Zhang's last YouTube video posted on May 13, she had reported on the impact of a huge fall in passenger numbers on the livelihoods of Wuhan's taxi drivers, as well as loss of employment in the wake of the lockdown among the city's residents.She also spoke out against the intimidation of local people by the urban management police, or chengguan, and about a sense of despair at life in China.The Chinese government has targeted thousands of people for speaking out about the coronavirus epidemic in the country since it began in late December in the central city of Wuhan.Between Jan. 1 and March 26, nearly 900 internet users were penalized by police for their online speech or info-sharing about the coronavirus epidemic, across almost every province, region, and municipality in China.Charges used to question, detain, and arrest people included "rumor-mongering," "fabricating false information," “sowing panic,” “disturbing public order,” and "breach of privacy."Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.