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Chinese Dissidents in Hunger Strike for Better Prison Conditions

December 31, 2002

For Immediate Release

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that a Chinese prisoner of conscience, An Jun, is in critical condition after refusing food for more than three weeks in a protest calling for better prison conditions.

Dissident An Jun, aged 47, was sentenced to four years in prison in April 2000 on charges of “incitement to subvert state power” after attempting to register China’s first anti-corruption monitoring group. He began a hunger strike on December 7 while in solitary confinement in Kaifeng’s Henan Province No. 1 Prison. Prison officials refused a request by An’s two sisters to visit him on December 12, and advised them to encourage An to reform rather than helping him pass messages to the outside world. On October 25 An’s four brothers and sisters petitioned the Secretariat and Propaganda Bureau of the 16th Party Congress requesting a reassessment of An’s case. It is believed that prison officials placed An in solitary confinement in retaliation for the petitions. None of An’s family members have been allowed to visit him since then.

An Jun’s protest coincides with severe conditions imposed on a number of other well-known prisoners of conscience. One such dissident, Zhang Shanguang, aged 48, has recently been transferred in critical condition from the Hunan Province No. 1 Prison to Hunan’s Jin City Prison Hospital. Zhang has been repeatedly arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms for his efforts to establish an independent labor union. He is currently serving a ten-year sentence after granting an interview to Radio Free Asia. According to information HRIC has received, Zhang has been suffering from pulmonary disease during his incarceration, but has been denied medical attention even after spitting blood. His transfer to a prison hospital indicates that prison officials now acknowledge his condition as serious.

Zhejiang dissident Zhu Yufu, serving a seven-year sentence for his participation in the China Democracy Party, has been placed under severe restrictions for several months because of his refusal to express contrition. He is not allowed to leave his cell or read a newspaper and has been suffering from deteriorating health. At the request of Zhu’s wife prison officials have agreed to review his newspaper privileges in the new year.

Another Zhejiang dissident, Mao Qingxiang, serving an eight-year sentence and likewise unrepentant for participating in the CDP, is reported to have also suffered a severe decline in health after being confined to his cell. Prison officials, alarmed at Mao’s condition, recently transferred him to a convalescence hospital, where his health has begun to improve.

An Jun’s hunger strike and the harsh conditions imposed on other dissidents come at a time when the Chinese government is basking in praise from the international community following the release of dissidents Xu Wenli, Pang Qingxiang and Wang Zhaoming. HRIC president Liu Qing warns, “The international community can’t relax its pressure on the Chinese government just because a few dissidents have been released. It’s clear from these cases that many other dissidents remain in prison under deplorable conditions.”

HRIC has prepared a dossier of urgent cases to present to United Nations human rights bodies with a request for investigation into the oppressive conditions suffered by prisoners of conscience. HRIC urges the Chinese government to discontinue its practice of imposing additional punishment on prisoners for refusal to admit guilt. HRIC also calls for An Jun, Zhu Yufu and Mao Qingxiang to be released from solitary confinement, and for Zhang Shanguang to be allowed to seek medical treatment outside of prison.

For more information, contact:
Stacy Mosher (English) 212-268-9074
Liu Qing (Chinese) 212-239-4495