Is religious freedom Zhang Zhan’s new ‘red line’?

The blogger who reported on the Wuhan pandemic was again threatened with arrest a few days after regaining freedom after four years in prison. Three weeks ago she – visibly distressed – had spoken about her faith, which she has preserved even in prison, in a Zoom meeting organized by the Chinese “house churches” (persecuted by Beijing).

Shanghai (/Agencies) – “Do not cross the red line again.” Just over a month after she finished serving her four-year prison sentence for “stirring up disputes and causing trouble” with her 2020 stories from Wuhan, blogger Zhang Zhan – who is still under close surveillance – was threatened again at the Xuanqiao Police Station by the Shanghai Public Security Department. This was revealed by Wang Jianhong, British activist and founder of the Zhang Zhan Concern Groupwho cited a message from Citizen Journalist in WeChat on June 9, in which she asked: “Whose red line are they protecting? Is it people’s lives? Or the opinion of superiors? “I don’t want to go to jail and I’m not the one who should go.”

He American website ChinaAid, which follows the persecution of Chinese Protestant communities, has put forward a hypothesis: that the “red line” has directly to do with religious freedom. Indeed, Zhang Zhan is an evangelical Christian. And on May 29—a few days after finishing serving her sentence—she spoke on a Zoom connection @5pminChina, a YouTube channel linked to the initiative of some house churches, Protestant communities that are victims of repression in China because they do not adhere to the Three-Self Movement, the evangelical “patriotic” association controlled by the Chinese government. The “Prayer Meeting for the Kingdom in China at 5 p.m.” was born in September 2022 and is the result of an alliance between these groups, which call on their members and their families to meet to pray at that time for the Christians arrested by Chinese police.

In the video of this testimony – posted on YouTube from abroad – Zhang Zhan appears emotionally affected by the arrest, bursts into tears several times and says she is not strong. She speaks exclusively of her faith, she says that she has prayed for the recovery of her sick cellmate and her joy at seeing that God had heard and answered her prayer. Although she remains under surveillance after regaining her freedom, she expresses her desire to be able to participate in Sunday worship and meet her brothers and sisters in the faith.

Zhang Zhan also says that he has experienced the closeness of God in prison and the joy that this brought him. “This experience,” he says, “showed me that the Kingdom of Heaven exists and that suffering in the world is temporary.” After Zhang Zhan’s release, his friends at home and abroad were very concerned about his health. Shanghai lawyer Peng Yonghe managed to visit her, but on May 31, he too was summoned by local police to the Xuanqiao police station and had several electronic devices confiscated, without being shown any warrant.

“The People’s Republic of China must unconditionally respect the fundamental human rights of its great citizen, Zhang Zhan,” he concludes. ChinaAidand calls on the Chinese government “to immediately cease restrictive measures against her, including surveillance, censorship, harassment and intimidation.”

“We remain very concerned about Zhang Zhan, who faces a new wave of pressure after being released from prison,” said the head of the campaign. Reporters Without Borders, Rebecca Vincent. Partial freedom is not freedom at all, and the Chinese authorities are not fooling anyone by subjecting them to extreme surveillance and threats of re-arrest. Today more than ever this brave journalist needs international support after risking so much to report on a public health problem that affects us all. We urge the international community – concludes the representative of Reporters Without Borders – to remain vigilant in monitoring Zhang Zhan’s situation and to keep his safety and freedom high on the agenda of relations with Beijing.”

Source link