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Ailing Shanghai Petitioner Ma Yalian Starts Hunger Strike in Detention

March 11, 2015

Human Rights in China has received information that long-time petitioner Ma Yalian (马亚莲), taken into custody in Beijing and brought back to Shanghai, began a hunger strike in an unofficial detention facility—a “black jail”—in a suburb of Shanghai to protest mistreatment by detention authorities.

According to an informed source, Ma, who went to Beijing in the hope of delivering petition materials to deputies to the National People’s Congress currently in session, was intercepted by Beijing police on March 8, taken to a temporary facility for holding intercepted petitioners, and brought back to Shanghai by in the morning of March 9.

The source said the following:  Ma, being held in the Qingpu District Rehabilitation Center, a facility for employees of the Shanghai Municipal Engineering Administration Bureau, is suffering from several medical conditions, including heart disease and severe hypoglycemia, and in constant, often severe, pain in the spine; and her arm is bandaged from an earlier injury. Ma was attacked by a guard, and was threatened that she would get a beating after the matter is all over. The detention authorities have ignored her request to be taken back to the city for medical treatment and given suitable food for her hypoglycemia condition. She has not been given a change of clothes or toiletries. In protest, Ma began her hunger strike on March 10, the first time she has engaged in this form of protest. The source said that Ma sounded weak, but lost contact with Ma on March 11.

“The practice of extralegal detention undermines the ‘comprehensive’ legal reforms announced by the Party with great fanfare last October,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China. “HRIC urges the authorities to account for Ma’s whereabouts and condition and ensure her safety and unconditional release.” 

Ma, a well-known petitioner, began petitioning various government authorities—including the Shanghai Municipal Government, the Beijing High People’s Court, and National People’s Congress—after her home was forcibly demolished in 1998. She was detained numerous times and served two Reeducation-Through-Labor sentences, one year in 2001, and one-year-and-a-half in 2004-2005. The latter followed immediately her online exposé of the mistreatment—including severe beatings—of petitioners, some of whom resorted to suicide in desperation. In 2006, Ma received, along with six other Chinese rights defenders, the Housing Rights Defender Award from the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE).