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HRIC Statement: Imprisoned Democracy Activists Gravely Ill, Require Immediate Medical Parole

May 6, 2010

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that political prisoners Zhang Jianhong (张建红) (also known by his pen name, Li Hong [力虹]) and Yang Tianshui (杨天水) are in extremely critical medical condition.

HRIC urges the prison authorities where Zhang and Yang are respectively held, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, and Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, to grant immediate medical parole to the prisoners on humanitarian grounds so that they may receive the proper care that they desperately require. HRIC also appeals to the international community to closely monitor the prisoners’ conditions and join the call for their release.

Zhang Jianhong (张建红), a.k.a. Li Hong (力虹)
Zhang is a 52-year-old writer and poet who has authored a number of essays calling for democratic reform. For his role in the 1989 Democracy Movement, Zhang served 18 months of Reeducation-Through-Labor for engaging in “counter-revolutionary propaganda.” More recently, on September 4, 2006, Zhang authored “Olympicgate,” an article criticizing the government’s human rights record in advance of the 2008 Beijing Olympics [《活摘门方兴未艾,“奥运门”又将开启》]. As a result, on March 19, 2007, Zhang was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced to six years in prison and an additional two years of deprivation of political rights. He is currently being held at the General Prison Hospital of Zhejiang Province in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, and is scheduled for release on September 5, 2012.

Zhang suffers from advanced-stage muscular dystrophy and his condition has rapidly deteriorated over the past several months. Although the prison doctor who diagnosed Zhang stated that his illness was serious enough to qualify for medical parole, a full four months passed before Zhang was sent to the prison hospital for treatment. Officials have rejected repeated requests for medical parole by Zhang’s family and have refused to grant permission to seek treatment outside of prison facilities.

According to a May 3, 2010, report by China Free Press (Canyu), Zhang’s daughter said that when she saw her father on April 25, during the latest monthly family visit, he could no longer take food by mouth and was being sustained through intravenous feeding. He was no longer able to get up from the hospital bed and could barely talk. She said that Zhang only spoke a few sentences, mainly about what the family should do after his death. Zhang’s daughter said that the family wishes to have Zhang undergo a thorough medical evaluation outside the prison system in order to determine whether treatments are still an option, and if not, to at least provide comfort to him at home and be with him during his last days.

Yang Tianshui (杨天水)

Yang, 48, is a prolific author of essays and articles calling for democratic reform and accountability for human rights abuses. Yang previously served a ten-year prison sentence for organizing “counter-revolutionary activities” related to his involvement in the 1989 Democracy Movement. From 2002 to 2005, Yang published a number of essays on overseas Internet websites, for which he was detained, arrested, and on May 17, 2006, convicted of “subversion of state power.” Yang was then sentenced to 12 years in prison and an additional four years of deprivation of political rights. He is currently serving his sentence at Nanjing Prison in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, and is scheduled for release on December 22, 2017.

Yang was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus while serving his first sentence in the 1990s, a condition that has deteriorated considerably throughout his current prison term. On September 21, 2009, Yang was diagnosed and hospitalized in prison with pleural tuberculosis. During his incarceration, he has also been diagnosed with enteritis, nephritis, hypertension, and severe arthritis. Yang and his family members have repeatedly requested medical parole, but those requests have been either rejected or ignored. Out of desperation and fear that he will not live to see his scheduled release, Yang was planning to begin a 15-day hunger strike, from May 1 to May 15, 2010, to protest the refusal of his requests for medical parole.

Yang’s brother-in-law, who saw Yang on April 26, 2010, the latest monthly family visit, told HRIC that he tried to persuade Yang not to go on a hunger strike, but Yang insisted that he would. According to the brother-in-law, Yang also said that the prison authorities stated that in order to grant him medical parole, Yang would have to sign a document admitting his guilt (of “subversion of state power”). The brother-in-law also said that the prison authorities did not give Yang the medicine or the writing pads that the family had brought him previously.

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