ICDR and Forum 2000 express solidarity with citizen journalist Zhang Zhan

December 28, 2022

Zhang Zhan is a Chinese citizen journalist and former lawyer. She travelled to Wuhan in February 2020 and reported on the impact of the lockdown measures imposed in the city in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. She questioned the handling of the crisis by authorities and was detained in May 2020. Zhang Zhan was tortured and sentenced in December 2020 to four years in prison on the charges of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble". She is the first citizen journalist to be sentenced for reporting on the pandemic in China, although at least ten journalists and commentators were known to have been arrested for their reporting as of February 2021, with seven remaining missing or detained as of that date.

Zhang Zhan was hospitalized due to malnutrition after an extended intermittent hunger strike. In late October 2021, her mother and brother considered Zhang to be close to death as she continued her hunger strike, leading to calls by the United States government, Reporters without Borders, and the United Nations human rights office for her immediate unconditional release. She is still in prison and since August 2022, there's been no information about Zhang Zhan's health.

As the two-year anniversary of Zhang Zhan's imprisonment approaches, members of the International Coalition for Democratic Renewal and the Forum 2000 network have decided to express their solidarity:

Zhang Zhan
Area 5, Shanghai Women's Prison
No. 1601 Zhangjing Road
Sijing Zhen
Songjiang Qu
Shanghai 201601

Prague, December 22, 2022

Dear Zhang Zhan,

As the anniversary of your sentence approaches, we write to express our support and appreciation for your determined and fearless reporting on the Covid-19 pandemic when it first emerged in Wuhan, despite all the risks you faced from the Chinese regime. We admire your resilience and courage that accompanies your current imprisonment, and we send you much strength.

We would also like to inform you that the Forum 2000 Foundation and its network of world's intellectuals, politicians, academics, activists and other esteemed figures, has awarded you the International Award for Courage and Responsibility at this year’s Forum 2000 Conference. The establishment of this award was inspired by the words of the late Czech President Václav Havel, who said that "we may all realize, that he or she - regardless of how insignificant or powerless they may feel - is in a position to change the world". We hope that the support of this network will send you some strength on your journey to change the world and that you will be delighted to receive this award for your extraordinary civic courage in defending human rights and freedom of speech. The award was accepted on your behalf by Xiao Qiang, Editor-in-Chief of China Digital Times, who promised to present it to you when the situation permits. The award ceremony was also attended by Miloš Vystrčil, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic and Iveta Radičová, sociologist and former Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic.

With this open letter, we would also like to appeal to the authorities of the People's Republic of China to release all unjustly detained political prisoners. In light of the current unprecedented protests that have erupted across the country, we demand that the government not detain any peaceful protesters. The Chinese authorities must allow citizens to freely express their thoughts, provide independent information and protest peacefully without fear of reprisals.

We would like to end this letter with the words of Liao Yiwu, Chinese exile writer and member of the International Coalition for Democratic Renewal. “Please stand with Zhang Zhan, this very gentle woman. She is […] the kind of person willing to pay with her life for her insistence that the truth about ‘the disaster caused by the Wuhan virus’ is no less important than the truth about the Chernobyl nuclear leak.”

We stand with you, Zhang Zhan!


  • Michael Abramowitz, President of Freedom House, USA
  • Tamara Adrian, Lawyer, Law Professor, Human Rights Activist, Venezuela
  • Alina Aflecăilor, Greenpeace CEE
  • Hernán Alberro, Associate Fellow, Forum 2000, Argentina/Spain
  • Zach Barnes, Teacher, Novy Porg Gymnazium, Czechia
  • Ondřej Besperát, Czechia
  • Ladan Boroumand, Iran
  • Darko Brkan, Executive Director, UG Zasto ne, BiH
  • Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Arco Progresista, Secretaría de Solidaridad Democrática, Cuba
  • Larry Diamond, Stanford University, USA
  • Carlos Fara, Secretary, CADAL
  • Carl Gershman, Founding President, National Endowment for Democracy, USA
  • Borys Gudziak, President, Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv
  • Mauricio Samuel Isrrade Huicochea, Mexico
  • Dolkun Isa, President, World Uyghur Congress
  • Boris Kaliský, Slovakia
  • Tinatin Khidasheli, Civic IDEA, Georgia
  • Jakub Klepal, Director, Forum 2000, Czechia
  • Adéla Klepalová, Czechia
  • Markéta Kolář, Czechia
  • Olga Lomová, Charles University in Prague, Czechia
  • Eva Michlová, Czechia
  • Petr Mucha, Czechia
  • Giorgi Muchaidze, Executive Director, Atlantic Council of Georgia, Georgia
  • Joshua Muravchik, Institute of World Politics, USA
  • Ucha Nanuashvili, Democracy Research Institute, Georgia
  • Andrea Ngombet, Republic of Congo
  • Alena Novotná, Czechia
  • Šimon Pánek, Director, People in Need, Czechia
  • Kristin Parpel, Owner, KLP Coaching, Czechia
  • Jasmine Joan Parpel, Student, Novy Porg Gymnazium, Czechia
  • Markéta Peřestá, Czechia
  • Ester Povýšilová, Czechia
  • Marek Přeček, Czechia
  • Pavel Pseja, University Lecturer, Metropolitan University, Czechia
  • Xiao Qiang, Founder, Editor-in-Chief, China Digital Times, USA/China
  • Rafaela Requesens, Caracas - Venezuela
  • Mykola Riabchuk, PEN Ukraine
  • Rafael E. Rincón-Urdaneta Z., Chile
  • Gabriel C. Salvia, CADAL, Argentina
  • Andrei Sannikov, Belarus opposition, politician, Belarus
  • Judith Saryan, Chairperson, National Association for Armenian Studies and Research
  • Hugh D Segal, Director, Centre for International and Defence Policy, Queen’s University, Canada
  • Gulnara Shahinian, Chair, ‘Democracy Today” Armenia,  Un Special Rapporteur on Slavery 2008-2014
  • Jakub Tadeáš Simon, Czechia
  • Veronika Skoupá, Czechia
  • Vladimir Skůpa, Owner, Radecon, Czechia
  • Marie Stojanovová, Czechia
  • Nina Szalóová, Czechia
  • Martin Špáta, Czechia
  • Martina Turňová, Czechia
  • Kristýna Valeš Syslová, Event Manager, Vialain Events, Czechia
  • Iveta Vancáková, Slovakia
  • Jianli Yang, Founder and President of Citizen Power Initiatives for China
  • Yana Yanchuk, Ukraine
  • Liao Yiwu, writer in exile, 2018 recipient of the "Disturbing the Peace Award" from the Vaclav Havel Book Foundation
  • Yevgeniy Zhovtis, KIBHR Director, Kazakhstan