China: Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Circulate Open Letter to Shanghai Authorities Appealing for Citizen Journalist Zhang Zhan to Receive a Full Physical Examination and Emergency Medical Treatment


To the directors of the Shanghai Municipal Justice Bureau and Shanghai Women’s Prison:

We, as citizens, as friends of Zhang Zhan (张展), and as people who admire her sense of conscience, have been concerned about the deteriorating state of her health. We are deeply concerned to have learned that Zhang Zhan’s older brother recently filed an application for medical parole on her behalf, and that she is on the verge of death. To prevent a tragedy, we feel it necessary to write you a letter to express our collective request: that Zhang Zhan be given a comprehensive physical examination and that she receive timely emergency medical treatment.

Zhang Zhan has been on a hunger strike for months, which is not a situation that those who care about her would like to see. We have also persuaded Zhang Zhan through different channels to stop the hunger strike and protect her health. But this is a matter of her own faith and conscience. Based on information provided by Zhang’s attorneys and family members, as well as our knowledge of Zhang Zhan’s character, her object in going on hunger strike is not to obtain a lighter sentence in court nor to receive medical parole or early release following the verdict. Zhang Zhan’s hunger strike is a pure expression of rejection in the face of persecution.

If Zhang Zhan were really guilty, even if she believed she was innocent and went on a hunger strike to the point of emaciation, from the perspective of legal order, we would not propose that she be allowed medical parole or to serve her sentence outside of prison; nor would we call on you to give her a full medical checkup and emergency aid.

However, Zhang Zhan is not guilty.

Zhang Zhan is someone who went to Wuhan alone when many people fled the city from the coronavirus epidemic. This is the kind of rare courage of someone who makes sacrifices for the common good in times of national crisis or lays down their life for a righteous cause. It can be said that individuals like Zhang Zhan are a nation’s greatest spiritual treasure. While in Wuhan, she spent most of her time quietly documenting the lives of Wuhan residents during the epidemic, occasionally helping others to send out distress information, while not interfering in any way with the government’s disaster prevention and relief efforts. Her role during the epidemic was essentially that of a citizen journalist. How could such behavior be considered “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” (“寻衅滋事”)?


The letter is open to the public to co-sign. If you wish to co-sign it, please contact email: with your name and occupation.

To view the letter in Chinese and the list of co-signatories, please visit: (FRANCAIS) (DEUTSCH)

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