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Officials Attempt to Interfere in Care of Gravely Ill Child of Protesters

August 29, 2007

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has received reports that officials have been trying to interfere in the medical treatment of a gravely ill six-year old girl whose parents have publicly accused their local government of causing her health problems by administering a defective vaccine.

HRIC urges the hospital’s administrators to ensure that Liang Jiayi of Jiangmen City in Guangdong Province can continue to receive the medical care that her parents and doctors agree upon, without the interference of local officials.

The case reflects the hardships faced by people in China who attempt to assert their rights through petitioning the government or suing it over cases of injustice or malfeasance.

Before the family left for Beijing, local officials reportedly told Jiayi’s father, Liang Yongli, that it was not worth spending so much money on a child.

Liang Jiayi was inoculated with Japanese B encephalitis at the government-run Aimin Clinic at the Huicheng Town Health Centre in Jiangmen City’s Xinhui District on August 15, 2003, when she was two years old. Her parents say that the day after she received the vaccination, she became feverish and agitated, and she was subsequently diagnosed with "toxic encephalitis." Since that time, Jiayi has suffered from persistent fever, convulsions, diminished intellect and loss of speech. Now six years old, Jiayi remains on a liquid diet and requires 24-hour care from family members.

Previous attempts by Liang Jiayi’s parents to petition the provincial and central authorities for compensation have been impeded by local Jiangmen City officials. On July 26, 2007, the Xinhui District Court heard a civil lawsuit that Liang Jiayi and her family lodged against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of Xinhui District and Jiangmen City and the vaccine producer, Chengdu Institute of Biological Products. A decision is still pending.

Liang Jiayi was taken to the Beijing Navy General Hospital on June 18, 2007, and was reportedly advised by doctors to remain in Beijing for the duration of what is expected to be a lengthy course of treatment.

HRIC learned that on August 21, three officials, including one from the Huicheng Neighborhood Council in Xinhui District, Jiangmen City, another Jiangmen City government official stationed in Beijing and an official from the Jiangmen City Health Bureau, went to Jiayi’s room and talked with her parents. The official from the neighborhood council reportedly told Liu Xueyun, Jiayi’s mother, not to send any more letters to the mayor of Jiangmen, because all the local leaders already knew of their case. She also asked Jiayi’s family to stop seeking donations on the street to help pay for her care, and advised the parents to take Jiayi home before her second round of surgery.

According to HRIC’s sources, the Huicheng Neighborhood Council official promised reimbursement of a maximum of 10,000 yuan (about $1,200) once the family arrived back in their hometown. However the family is already entitled to this amount through their medical insurance plan.

One of Jiayi’s doctors told HRIC that, on the same day, Jiangmen City officials asked him if Jiayi could return to her home in Guangdong Province to continue her treatment. The doctor said he told the officials that it was a decision for the family, but added that in general the hospitals in Beijing provided better treatment.

To date the family has spent 40,000 yuan on the first round of Jiayi’s treatment, which will involve at least two operations and several months’ recuperative treatment at an estimated total cost of at least 120,000 yuan. Jiayi’s parents say that her health has already improved following her first operation. She has stopped having convulsions and is no longer incontinent.

Jiayi’s parents, who used to make a living by selling fruit, have been forced to stop working in order to take care of their daughter. They have contacted numerous official organs for help, including China Red Cross, the All-China Women’s Federation, the All-China Federation of Disabled Persons and the Communist Youth League, with little result. That has obliged them to raise the money for Jiayi’s therapy primarily by panhandling. Before the family left for Beijing, local officials reportedly told Jiayi’s father, Liang Yongli, that it was not worth spending so much money on a child.