Lawyer 'hasn't heard' from woman who filmed Wuhan lockdown after expected prison release

Zhang Zhan was one of many imprisoned for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble." Credit: AP

The lawyer for Chinese woman Zhang Zhan, who was jailed for her reporting in the early days of the pandemic, has told ITV News that he hasn’t heard from her after she was supposed to be released from prison yesterday.

He believes she has been released but her family have been warned by the authorities not to speak to anyone, even him.

Friends and supporters of Zhan have heard nothing from her or her family to be able to confirm that she was freed from Shanghai’s Women’s Prison as scheduled. 

The 40-year-old was sentenced to four years behind bars for her reporting in the early days of the pandemic in Wuhan in 2020.

Protests have previously been held over her imprisonment. Credit: AP

She went to the city at the start of the global outbreak and was producing video diary updates in a ‘citizen journalist’ capacity. She was one of many arrested and imprisoned under a charge of ‘’picking quarrels and making trouble’’.

During her four years in prison, she conducted several hunger strikes protesting her incarceration and her health is known to have suffered greatly as a result. However, those who know her and have been in contact with her lawyer and family say that despite the deterioration in her health, there has never been a deterioration in her determination. 

ITV News had also tried contacting her family but unlike on previous occasions, as of Tuesday afternoon Beijing time they had not responded to our messages. 

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Even if Zhan has been released back into the safety of her family, her movements in the future will be monitored and her movements possibly restricted.

In similar cases upon release political prisoners have not had their passports returned.

It is also possible that Zhan would be placed under house arrest for at least the initial period following her release. Her mother and brother have been warned several times by the police not to speak to journalists or anyone else about Zhang Zhan or her case. 

Over four years in prison, Zhan conducted several hunger strikes protesting her incarceration and her health suffered greatly as a result. Credit: YouTube

Friends are worried that Zhang Zhan might also be prevented from getting the medical treatment and care she will require after years of harsh conditions and hunger strikes in prison. 

The foreign ministry would not comment directly on Zhan's case but in a statement said that China guarantees a prisoner's legitimate rights in accordance with the law. 

We wait to hear confirmation that Zhang Zhan is safe and well - when it safe for her to give word to the world.

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