China has strongly criticized the United Nations over comments demanding the release of a journalist jailed for her coverage of the country’s COVID-19 response.
The Chinese mission in Geneva regarded the comments made by the UN rights office OHCHR for the release of Zhang Zhan as “irresponsible.”
OHCHR spokeswoman Marta Hurtado had expressed alarm at reports that the 38-year-old Journalist’s health was deteriorating rapidly and that her life was at serious risk from the hunger strike in detention.
“We call on the Chinese authorities to consider Zhang’s immediate and unconditional release, at the very least, on humanitarian grounds, and to make urgent life-saving medical care available, respecting both her will and her dignity,” Hurtado said in a statement.
Zhang, a former lawyer, traveled to Wuhan in February 2020 to report on the chaos at the pandemic’s epicenter, questioning the authorities’ handling of the outbreak in her smartphone videos.
She was detained in May 2020 and sentenced in December to four years in jail for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” – a charge routinely used to suppress dissent.
She has conducted several hunger strikes to protest against her conviction, sentencing, and imprisonment, and her family recently warned that she had become severely underweight and “may not live for much longer”.
Hurtado said the UN rights office had repeatedly raised concerns over Zhang’s case with the Chinese authorities since her arrest last year.
It had sought “clarification on the criminal proceedings taken against her as a consequence of what appear to have been her legitimate journalistic activities”, she said.
Readers Bureau, Contributor
Edited by Jesus Chan
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