Imprisoned and Tortured for Doing Her Job, Journalist Zhang Zhan Must Be Released

On December 28, 2020, the Chinese journalist was sentenced to four years in prison for spreading information about the virus in Wuhan. Amnesty International France and Reporters Without Borders are calling for his immediate release in the name of the right to freedom of expression.

“We should aspire to know the truth and seek to obtain it at any cost. The truth is the dearest good that exists in this world.” This conviction, Zhang Zhan will have carried it at the risk of his freedom and his life. In February 2020, as the world was devastated by the Covid-19 epidemic, the journalist defied censorship to document what was happening in Wuhan, from the arbitrary arrests of independent journalists to the harassment of the families of the sick. Before disappearing, in May 2020, also arrested by the Chinese authorities.

In June 2020, Zhang went on a hunger strike to protest his detention. To punish her, the prison authorities shackled her feet and hands around the clock for six months. This cruel and inhuman treatment weakens her to the point that she must attend her trial hearing in a wheelchair in December 2020. At the end of a mock trial, she will receive four years in prison for “having sought to provoke conflicts and disturb public order”. This is what it costs to dare to question the truth proclaimed by the Chinese authorities.

But that is without taking into account the anger and exasperation of a Chinese population tired of the harshness of the regime. The recent large-scale demonstrations against the “Zero Covid” policyof Xi Jinping’s government have laid bare the flaws of a system where every dissenting voice is immediately silenced, where it is not possible to protest peacefully without being harassed and prosecuted, where the search for truth has a price. This movement is all the more important as it comes only a few weeks after the coronation of a Xi Jinping ready to do anything to prove the superiority of his policy.

Between mass surveillance and zero tolerance

In last October, Xi Jinping was indeed renewed for a third term at the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), thanks to a constitutional reform removing the limitation to two presidential terms for the same person. At the same time general secretary of the Party, chairman of its Central Military Commission and president of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping controls the CCP, the army and the government. His continuation as head of state, in defiance of term limits, is a new step towards an ever greater concentration of power, based on strict censorship of the media and social networks, mass surveillance and tolerance. zero with regard to anything that could be related, directly or indirectly, to a criticism of the power in place.

It must be said that for ten years, the Chinese government has given itself the means to achieve its ambitions by creating a vast legal framework aimed at “to protect national security”, until recently exceeding its physical borders. Whether through his national security lawwhich entered into force on June 30, 2020 in Hong Kong – which can apply to anyone, regardless of nationality or location – or by its repeated attempts, within the United Nations, to undermine the standards human rights standards, Xi Jinping’s government is increasingly threatening our fundamental freedoms.

The courage to challenge

It is by understanding the extent of the means made available to the Chinese authorities to identify, arrest and imprison any citizen who has criticized the regime, that we begin to measure the courage that lies behind each of these demonstrators. . These pieces of white paper brandished with force are all risks taken. If Zhang Zhan cannot testify today to these protest movements, she remains one of the faces of these dissident voices, the last bastions against a regime that crushes and muzzles. Like her, it is sadly very likely that others will pay dearly for daring to challenge the regime’s handling of the pandemic, despite the apparent signs of easing. As her health remains fragile and news about her dwindles, we once again call for her immediate and unconditional release and that of all journalists detained simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression. .

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Imprisoned and Tortured for Doing Her Job, Journalist Zhang Zhan Must Be Released