The European Union has listed the release of citizen journalist, Zhang Zhan, and several other jailed reporters, lawyers, and human rights champion as conditions to go-ahead with investment deal with China
The union explained that for it to enter into the deal with Beijing, the country must facilitate the release of all prisoners of conscience and guarantee their human rights.
The EU Foreign Policy spokesman, Peter Stano, said that the country must be seen respecting the human rights of every individual and end all forms of repressive action being taken against perceived dissidents.
The EU statement was issued just ahead of Brussels signing a major investment pact with Beijing, despite concerns about China’s labour and civil rights record.
Zhang was jailed on Monday for four years over allegations of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” during her coverage of the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak in epicenter Wuhan, her lawyer said.
“Prior to her detention, Zhang Zhan had been reporting about the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan,” EU foreign policy spokesman Peter Stano said in a statement.
“According to credible sources, Zhang has been subject to torture and ill-treatment during her detention and her health condition has seriously deteriorated. It is crucial that she receives adequate medical assistance.”
Brussels also demanded the release of Yu Wensheng, a human rights lawyer jailed on December 13.
“The European Union calls for the immediate release of Zhang Zhan, of Yu Wensheng, and of other detained and convicted human rights defenders,” the statement said.
The statement listed Li Yuhan, Huang Qi, Ge Jueping, Qin Yongmin, Gao Zhisheng, Ilham Tohti, Tashi Wangchuk, Wu Gan, Liu Feiyue as well as all those who have engaged in reporting activities in the public interest.
Brussels’ concern for the fate of Chinese rights activists and independent journalists comes despite the EU’s push to sign a major investment pact with China this week.
Some MEPs have expressed concern that the deal, seven years in the negotiation, sends the wrong signal on human rights, but on Monday the 27 member states gave the European Commission the go-ahead to sign.