Hunger-Striking Chinese Dissident Rushed to Hospital


HONG KONG—A Chinese dissident jailed since January for posting articles critical of the government on the Internet has been rushed to a hospital in the eastern province of Anhui says after launching a hunger strike, his wife told Radio Free Asia (RFA).

Zhang Lin, 42, currently serving a five-year jail term for "incitement to subversion," was hospitalized after a hunger strike that began Sept. 1, his wife told RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese services.

"His condition is critical right now. It must be, or they wouldn't have sent him to the hospital for treatment," said Fang Cao, who first realized something was wrong after she received a postcard Sept. 5 from Zhang.

Zhang has been held at the Bengbu City No. 1 Detention Center pending his appeal against the sentence.

Postcard sounded warning note

"At first, I was very happy to get it. Because I'd written many letters to him, and he'd never once written back. But when I saw what he'd written, I got very worried, because he doesn't usually talk like that," Fang told RFA.

My dear Fang Cao: Are you and An Ni well? Whatever happens, you must be strong and keep going, and raise our child. If you have the chance, take her to live overseas.

"I thought something momentous must be happening, otherwise I would never have got the postcard. Later on I discovered that Zhang Lin had been on hunger strike from Sept. 1-5. Five days."

"My dear Fang Cao," the postcard said. "Are you and An Ni well? Whatever happens, you must be strong and keep going, and raise our child. If you have the chance, take her to live overseas."

Zhang's note also asked to see a lawyer, and for his wife to respond as soon as possible. "He's a very strong person, and he wouldn't normally write something like that to me. It was in a high and formal style," Fang said.

Zhang's lawyer Mo Shaoping was due to arrive in Anhui from Beijing on Wednesday to hold meetings with officials at the Anhui Provincial People's High Court, where Zhang's appeal is currently under way.

"I will go to the High Court first to try to persuade them to hold his appeal hearing," Mo told RFA. "Then I'll go on to Bengbu to visit Zhang Lin. The appeal is under way, but it's hard to know when they'll actually hold the hearing, because I have to go there and talk to them first."

Wife calls for international help

"According to what Fang Cao has told me, if he's still undergoing emergency treatment in hospital then it probably won't be very easy to get to see him. But if he's in the detention center under normal conditions we ought to be able to meet," Mo said.

Meanwhile, Fang called on international rights groups to keep monitoring her husband's case, and put pressure on Beijing to release him.

"I hope that international human rights organizations will do something to help Zhang Lin," she said.

"I'm not quite sure what they can do, but I hope they will continue to follow his case, and put pressure on the authorities to release him on medical parole, or let him seek treatment overseas."

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it was "deeply concerned" about Zhang's health.

"Five years' imprisonment for expressing his views is appalling," CPJ executive director Ann Cooper said in a statement on the group's Web site.

No comment from officials

"We urge the court hearing Zhang's appeal to overturn this unjust verdict in accordance with the Chinese Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression."

One official at the Bengbu No. 1 Detention Center said he was unaware of Zhang's situation when contacted by RFA.

Another replied to a separate phone call: "Who are you? Who are you? Listen, you need to come and ask any questions you have in person. I can't tell you anything on the telephone."

Zhang, 42, a graduate of Beijing's prestigious Qinghua University, was sentenced to five years on July 28 for "inciting subversion" via a radio interview and six articles critical of China's communist regime which he posted on overseas dissident Web sites.

Zhang previously served a sentence of two years following his involvement in the 1989 pro-democracy protests on Tiananmen Square.

Authorities detained Zhang Jan. 29 in Anhui on his return from Beijing.

Zhang had tried unsuccessfully to pay his respects to former Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang, who was ousted after opposing the use of force against protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Zhao died at his Beijing home on Jan. 17 after 15 years under house arrest.

Original reporting in Cantonese by Lillian Cheung and in Mandarin by Fang Yuan. RFA Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie and edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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