HONG KONG�A prominent labor activist from northeastern China now serving a four-year jail term for subversion has suffered a sharp deterioration in his health recently, RFA�s Mandarin service reports.

Xiao Yunliang, 57, who was sentenced in May 2003 to four years� imprisonment for his role in a peaceful worker demonstrations in the northeastern Chinese city of Liaoyang, now suffers from heart trouble and a hugely swollen abdomen, his daughter Xiao Yu told RFA reporter Fang Yuan.

"He�s in very bad shape right now. He looks like he�s five months pregnant," Xiao Yu said. "When you push on his abdomen, it�s rock hard... His stomach hurts so much that he can�t eat anything. He throws up after a couple of bites."

She said she was concerned that Xiao�s liver might be deteriorating. "The problem is not in the stomach... It could be cirrhosis." She said Xiao was now almost totally blind but had been refused medical treatment so far by the prison authorities. "He told me that he can�t see anymore and he might need surgery. They wouldn�t let him go."

Xiao, a former worker at the Liaoyang Ferro-Alloy Factory, scene of mass worker protests in March 2002, was arrested on March 20, 2002 and charged with "incitement to subvert state power."

Among the evidence cited against him was his connection to the fledgling China Democracy Party (CDP), whose leaders were jailed in the late 1990s, and his habit of listening to foreign radio broadcasts.

He was recently transferred from Lingyuan Prison near Inner Mongolia to the Shenyang No. 2 Prison, but prison authorities have so far ignored his complaints of ill health and requests for treatment, his family said.

Xiao�s lawyer, surnamed Wu, said Xiao should be legally entitled to medical treatment. "The prison should at least give him some treatment. For someone as sick as he is, he should at least receive a certain level of treatment inside the prison," Wu told RFA.

Officials who answered the phone at the Liaoyang Municipal Political and Legal Committee hung up as soon as they heard Xiao�s name when contacted by an RFA reporter.

An official at the legal department of the Liaoyang Public Security Bureau (PSB) said the family would need to apply for a medical treatment permit from the prison.

"After sentencing, he�s out of the PSB�s jurisdiction," the official said. "I�m not too clear on the exact procedures. It�s better if Xiao�s relatives take him to apply for a permit in the prison. A hospital approved by the prison can then do a checkup on him and provide a diagnosis. Then they can get the proper certification from the authorities and take it from there."

But Xiao Yu said the prison had already made it difficult for the family, forcing them to apply for a separate permit for each visit, rather than simply allowing them to visit him once a month, as they had before.

"There�re too many hoops to jump through. Just for a visit, we�d need approval from the authorities at the city and provincial levels," Xiao Yu said. "They�re making things too difficult. It�s infuriating." #####


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