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Jailed Chinese Citizen Journalist Who Reported On Early Cases Of COVID-19 Reportedly In Bad Health Following Hunger Strike

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A Chinese citizen journalist is in bad health following a hunger-strike in prison where she is serving a four year sentence for reporting on the early period of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, according to a lawyer who talked to her family, the Associated Press reported.

Zhang Zhan was hospitalized at the prison on July 31, as a result of a prolonged hunger strike, according to a message from her mother on Chinese social media, the AP reported. Zhan reportedly now weighs less than 90 pounds, but has begun to eat some food after falling ill.

Authorities told the family of her condition and said they should come to the prison to visit her, according to the lawyer who spoke with Zhan’s mother, Peng Yonghe. Zhan’s parents and brother traveled to Shanghai to visit her on Aug. 2, but they were only able to talk to her over the phone, the AP reported.

Hospitals in Chinese prisons are usually not proper medical facilities that are usually ill-equipped, said activist Jane Wang with the U.S. based group Humanitarian China, founded by Chinese dissidents, the AP reported. (RELATED: Twitter Suspends Chinese Virologist Who Accused China Of Hiding Evidence Of COVID Leaking From A Lab)

Latest for @dw_chinese (Eng version): Chinese citizen journalist #ZhangZhan continues to stage hunger strike in prison after she was sentenced to four years last year. She is reportedly suffering from malnutrition and her weight has dropped to below 40KG. https://t.co/O60UKpsk0l

— William Yang (@WilliamYang120) August 8, 2021

“We just hope that she can get out of jail, because her hunger strike is really worrying,” said Yonghe, the AP reported. Wang helped Zhan’s mother share her message about her daughter and her condition in prison, which has sparked a show of support for her cause.

Zhan traveled to Wuhan after the city went into lockdown in February of 2020, where millions of its residents were prohibited from leaving, the AP reported.

She shot videos that she shared on YouTube of empty streets in the Chinese city and even traveled to a police station where she attempted to ask about Li Wenliang, the doctor who was punished for spreading information about the initial outbreak of COVID-19 and eventually died from the virus. The security guard threatened her as she filmed the interaction.

Zhan was sentenced by a Shanghai court over accusations that she was “picking fights and provoking trouble,” the AP reported. She was detained in May of 2020 under the broad charge that has been used in many political cases, as China attempted to control the narrative surrounding the pandemic.

China’s Communist Party has been under scrutiny for its handling of the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and a potential coverup of the virus’ origins.

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