“I’m very worried about her health and the detention conditions, and her mother is heartbroken,” her 63-year-old father told the outlet. “We don’t have any connections or money to get her out – we’re in an utterly powerless situation.”

Zhang reportedly traveled to Wuhan in February to cover life in the city and the response of authorities, just as the coronavirus outbreak was hitting its peak in China but before it had spread on a global scale. Part of her coverage, which was that of a citizen journalist rather than a credentialed news reporter, involved live streaming what she saw in the city on social media platforms including Twitter and YouTube, both of which are banned in China.

As well as covering events on the ground, Zhang also wrote an article criticizing the draconian lockdown measures imposed by authorities in response to the outbreak, arguing that they violated people’s human rights. In that same article, she also accused them of covering up the severity of the outbreak and complained about the widespread censorship of media in China.

The arrest of journalists and political dissidents of the Chinese Communist Party is so common in China that there are too many specific examples to list. A report last month found that the regime has jailed around 500 people since the beginning of 2020 for talking out of line about the coronavirus and China’s responsibility for it.

The study, carried out by the U.S.-based China Digital Times (CDT), included notorious incidents including the muzzling of Wuhan doctors Li Wenliang and Ai Fen and the lesser-known arrests of journalists and ordinary citizens whose disappearance went under the radar of international media.

Follow Ben Kew on Facebook, Twitter at @ben_kew, or email him at

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