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Writer Zhang Jianhong, Gravely Ill, is Released on Medical Parole; Family Struggles to Pay for Treatment

June 8, 2010

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that imprisoned Zheijiang dissident Zhang Jianhong (张建红), also known by his penname Li Hong (力虹), who suffers from advanced stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and is in critical condition, has been granted medical parole. Since 2007, Zhang has been serving a six-year sentence at the Qiaosu Prison in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, on conviction of “inciting subversion of state power.”

On June 5, 2010, Zhang’s family took him from Zhejiang Provincial No. 1 Prison Hospital in Hangzhou to Ningbo No. 2 Hospital in his hometown. Zhang’s wife, Dong Min (董敏), told HRIC that Zhang is conscious, but emaciated, and is basically being kept alive by a ventilator and feeding tube.

Dong said that the family is now responsible for all of Zhang’s hospital expenses, which amount to 2,500-3,000 yuan a day ($366-440). Dong said that despite the enormous financial hardship, the family has no choice. “If we didn’t bring him back to Ningbo, we would be giving up on medical parole, and Zhang’s situation would be so unspeakably terrible. He was hoping day and night for parole! To Zhang, returning to his family’s side and regaining his mental freedom is the most important thing,” Dong said.

Zhang is a 53-year-old writer and poet who has written a number of essays calling for democratic reform. Because of his role in the 1989 Democracy Movement, Zhang was convicted of engaging in “counterrevolutionary propaganda” and served 18 months of Reeducation-Through-Labor. More recently, in a September 2006 article titled “Olympicgate,” Zhang criticized the government’s human rights record in advance of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. 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 one year of deprivation of political rights.

Zhang was first diagnosed with advanced stage muscular dystrophy in 2007 during detention, and was suffering from muscle contractions and spasms of the hands and feet, and gradual weakening of his entire body. Despite the diagnosis, which qualified him for medical parole, prison authorities had rejected the requests from Zhang’s family and lawyers for medical parole.

Dong said that the family had opened two accounts at Bank of China to receive donations several days ago, but the accounts have since been frozen. Dong is applying for public assistance from the local Ningbo government but does not know whether it will be granted.


For more information on Li Hong, see: