European Union Expresses Concern to China About Detained Reporters, Citizen Journalists

December 14, 2020 Updated: December 14, 2020

The European Union (EU) is calling on the Chinese regime to release all arrested and detained reporters and citizen journalists, following the detention of a Chinese journalist working for Bloomberg News.

Fan Haze, a Chinese citizen, was taken from her home in Beijing by plainclothes officers of the local state security bureau on Dec. 7, allegedly on suspicion of endangering national security. She has worked for Bloomberg since 2017.

In a Dec. 12 statement, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the foreign and defense ministry of the EU, urged Chinese authorities to allow her to have access to a lawyer of her choosing, as well as contact with her family.

EEAS also expressed concern about three missing Chinese citizen journalists—Zhang Zhan, Chen Qishui, and Fang Bin—all detained because of their reporting on China’s COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 is a disease caused by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus. The virus first appeared in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei Province, in late 2019. Recently, Chinese authorities have placed several cities, including three in northern China’s Heilongjiang Province, under hard lockdown as new infection cases surfaced.

“All those arrested and detained in connection with their reporting activity should be immediately released,” EEAS stated.

In response to the EEAS statement, China’s EU mission issued a statement on Dec. 13, saying that Fan’s case was “entirely China’s internal affair” and no other countries had “any right to interfere.”

Zhang, a 37-year-old former lawyer, arrived in Wuhan in February before going missing in May. Authorities later announced in June that she had been detained for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”

In mid-November, human rights website Weiquan Net obtained a copy of Zhang’s indictment filed at the local prosecutor’s office in Shanghai. Prosecutors recommended a jail sentence of 4 to 5 years, on charges including “distributing false information through text, video, and other media” through online media such as WeChat, Twitter, and YouTube.

The court document also accused Zhang of “maliciously speculating” about the pandemic by “speaking to overseas media Radio Free Asia and Epoch Times.” She has been interviewed several times by the Chinese-language Epoch Times.

According to U.S.-based rights group Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), Zhang has gone on a hunger strike since September while she is being held at the Pudong New District detention center located in Shanghai.

One of her lawyers, Zhang Keke (no relation), who visited Zhang on Nov. 23, stated that she has maintained her innocence, but she was being force-fed in jail as a form of torture, usually through a feeding tube or by her cellmates, according to CHRD.

Chen, a 34-year-old former lawyer, also was reporting in Wuhan before he went missing in February; his whereabouts remain unknown. A tweet from Chen’s Twitter account, currently managed by his friend, on Dec. 13 said Chen has been “out of contact for 311 days after covering coronavirus in Wuhan.”

“We are still waiting for Chen Qiushi’s return. Until he reappears, we will keep on counting the days,” the tweet stated.

Fang’s whereabouts are also unknown. A clothes salesman in Wuhan, Fang has been missing since February.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer