Zhang, a freelance writer and political essayist who made a living by writing for banned overseas Web sites, was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and misrepresenting national authorities in his articles and in a radio interview.
Zhang, who spent years in jail in the 1990s for his pro-democracy activism and for organizing a labor union, was detained at a train station near his home in Bengbu, in central China ‘sAnhui province. Police apprehended him as he was returning from Beijing, where he had traveled to mourn the death of ousted Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang. He was initially accused of “disturbing public order,” but police formally arrested him on charges of inciting subversion after confiscating the computer he was using.
The Bengbu Intermediate People’s Court tried him on June 21, 2005, in proceedings that lasted five hours, his lawyer, Mo Shaoping, told CPJ. The defense argued that the six articles and one interview cited by the prosecution were protected free expression.
Zhang’s wife told reporters that his imprisonment was connected to essays he wrote about protests by unemployed workers and official scandals. On July 28, 2005, the court convicted Zhang and sentenced him to five years in prison.
For 28 days in September 2005, Zhang waged a hunger strike to protest his unjust sentence and the harsh conditions at Bengbu No. 1 Detention Center. Officials there subjected him to long hours of forced labor and refused to allow him to read newspapers or other material, according to his lawyer. During his hunger strike, he was fed through his nose. He was hospitalized briefly before returning to the detention center.
Zhang’s appeals were rejected without a hearing, and he was moved to Nanjiao Prison inHefei City, Anhui province. Zhang’s wife told CPJ that his health has suffered during his imprisonment. The couple exchange letters that are sometimes delayed for up to two months, she said. They have two children.