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A whistleblowing Chinese citizen journalist who was arrested over her critical reports on the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has had a feeding tube inserted and her arms restrained to prevent her from pulling it out, according to a report.
Former lawyer Zhang Zhan, 37, has been on a hunger strike at a detention facility near Shanghai after being arrested in May for allegedly “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” through her reports in social media and streaming accounts, the Guardian reported.
Zhang’s lawyer, Zhang Keke, on Wednesday said he visited his client the day before and found her unwell.
“She was wearing thick pajamas with a girdle around the waist, her left hand pinned in front and right hand pinned behind,” he wrote, according to the news outlet.
“She said she had a stomach tube inserted recently and because she wanted to pull it out, she was restrained,” he said, adding that Zhang was in “constant torment” from 24 hours a day of restraints.
“In addition to headache, dizziness and stomach pain, there was also pain in her mouth and throat. She said this may be inflammation due to the insertion of a gastric tube,” the lawyer added.
Zhang was formally charged last month with sending “false information through text, video and other media through the internet media such as WeChat, Twitter and YouTube.”
“She also accepted interviews from overseas media Free Radio Asia and Epoch Times and maliciously speculated on Wuhan’s Covid-19 epidemic,” alleged prosecutors, who recommended a four- to five-year prison sentence.
Zhang Keke said he told the woman that her family and friends have urged her to stop her hunger strike, but that she refused.
Before her arrest, Zhang had focused her reporting on the number of COVID-19 cases in Wuhan, expressing skepticism of the official figures.
She is among several journalists, activists and social media personalities who have been detained this year after traveling to Wuhan to report on the health crisis.
Citizen journalist Chen Qiushi was detained in January, while another reporter, Li Zehua, went missing in early February but was released in April, the Guardian reported.
Another journalist, Fang Bin, also went missing around that time and has not been seen since.