Fears For Jailed Activist's Health

A Chinese democracy activist faces harsh conditions in prison.

guizhouhumanrightsforum305.jpg Members of the Guizhou Human Rights Forum, in an undated photo.

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Guizhou have refused to allow the relatives of jailed pro-democracy activist Chen Xi to take him winter clothes, prompting fears for his health, his wife said on Monday.

Chen's wife, Zhang Qunxuan, visited her husband in the Xingyi municipal jail on Saturday, noticing that his hands were swollen and cracked with the cold, she said in an interview on Monday.

"They are only given a single quilt weighing four pounds per bed in this jail," said Zhang. "It is very cold."

"They wouldn't let me give him the clothes I brought for him, but said I should send them in the mail."

Chen, 57, was also being denied reading material because of "military drills."

"He said they were in the middle of two months' military drills," Zhang said. "I said, a man of 60 still has to do military drills?"

She said Chen was being kept in a cell alongside nine guards, who never left his side, but apart from the other inmates.

Prison officials had also refused to allow her to leave food for her husband. "They won't accept food that's been bought outside the jail," she said. "You have to buy it at their shop, so in the end we bought him some instant noodles, some milk and some drinks at the shop there."

Tight security

Zhang, who traveled to visit Chen with the couple's daughter and fellow Guizhou Human Rights Forum activist Liao Shuangyuan, was the only person admitted to the visiting room, amid tight security at the jail.

"They didn't allow all three of them to see him," said Guizhou activist and friend Li Renke. "When Chen's wife went to the Xingyi municipal jail, a lot of cars pulled up outside the prison."

"A whole bunch of people got out and encircled the others ... there were a lot of people surrounding them," Li said. "When the visit was nearly over, two of the cars drove away again."

He said the group was also searched after boarding a long-distance bus service back to Guiyang city.

"As they were getting on the bus, they saw that the bus entrance was blocked by a group of people, who wouldn't let them get on," Li said. "They had them take out all their cell phones, cameras and everything for inspection."

"Maybe they were afraid they took photos or something."

Human Rights Forum

Chen is currently serving a 10-year jail term for "incitement to subvert state power," in a sentence handed down by the Guizhou Intermediate People's Court on Dec. 27.

Chen was detained together with around 10 other fellow members of the controversial Guizhou Human Rights Forum last November after he and Li Renke decided they would attempt to seek nomination in forthcoming elections to district-level legislative bodies.

The Forum has been the target of official harassment since it was set up on World Human Rights Day in 2005, with members subjected to police surveillance, detention, and house arrest whenever it tries to meet.

It was formally banned by the authorities, according to notices issued by the local government in early December.

Chen's sentence came as rights groups warned of worsening human rights abuses in China after charting 2011 as a year of unprecedented, illegal disappearances in the wake of the Arab Spring revolts in North Africa and the Middle East.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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