Jailed Activist's Health Failing

Chinese authorities refuse medical parole for a rights activist and winner of the Sakharov Prize.

Hu Jia - 305 Hu Jia, photographed in 2007 while under house arrest in Beijing.

Jailed Chinese AIDS activist and rights campaigner Hu Jia’s health is deteriorating badly, according to his wife Zeng Jinyan, who visited him in a Beijing prison on Friday.

“When we were talking, he suddenly had a seizure, with his face and lips turning pale and his head sweating,” Zeng wrote on the microblogging site Twitter.

“He said his left abdomen was hurting. Then he could no long sit upright, so we let him lie down, and we saw that his shirt was wet from perspiration. The guards sent him to the prison hospital, and my visit had to end early,” Zeng wrote.

“Hu Jia has always been sick like this. Seizures similar to the one on Friday actually happened several times before, but he hadn’t told us,” Zeng said in an interview on Monday.

“His medical treatment in prison has never been adequate,” Zeng added.

Hu suffers from hepatitis and cholelithiasis, but authorities have denied him medical parole five times in the past without explanation, according to Zeng.

Zeng applied anew on Sunday for Hu’s release on medical grounds.

“I filed on Hu Jia’s behalf for medical parole again,” she said. “Even one day less in jail is a plus for the health of my husband.”

Phone calls to Beijing City Prison, where Hu is serving his jail term, went unanswered on Monday.

Wrote critical articles online

Hu’s Beijing-based lawyer Mo Shaoping said, “The prison really should give either oral or written explanation for why they have denied Hu Jia’s appeal for parole.”

Another lawyer, Hao Jinsong, said, “We hope Hu Jia can avoid the fate of late dissident writer Li Hong.”

Li Hong was the pen name of Zhan Jianhong, a rights activist jailed in the southern Chinese city of Hangzhou. Authorities refused him medical parole in spite of his apparently failing health, and he died in December.

Hu was handed a three-and-a-half year jail term in 2008 for “incitement to subversion” after he wrote online articles critical of China’s hosting of the Olympics.

A campaigner for human rights and AIDS victims in China, Hu was awarded the Sakharov Prize, a major human rights award, by the European Union in 2008.

He had acted as a key source of information for foreign media on human rights and environmental violations, government abuses, judicial injustices, and the mistreatment of dissidents.

Zeng, herself an AIDS activist and blogger who won an award from Paris-based Reporters Without Borders alongside Hu Jia, has kept up a campaign for his release.

Reported in Mandarin by Xin Yu. Translated by Ping Chen. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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