Hunger-Striking Chinese Petitioner in 'Critical' Condition in Detention: Husband

china-women-sept2013.gif Police attack women farmers of Xiaoxishan village in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi, Sept. 2, 2013.
Photo courtesy of Xiaoxishan villagers.

A detained petitioner in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong has been on hunger strike in a police-run detention center for a month out of despair at the lack of justice in the country's legal system, her husband told RFA.

Li Yanxiang is currently being held at the Qingdao No. 2 Detention Center on suspicion of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble" after she petitioned on behalf of Xu Chunhe, who was shot dead in May 2015 by railway police in Suihua city, in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang.

Li was detained last August after making repeated trip to lodge complaints with central government departments in Beijing.

Her husband Li Hongcai said his wife, who weighed 130 pounds when she was detained, and now weighs about 80 pounds, has been on hunger strike for some 30 days.

"She went on hunger strike ... because she had lost any faith in China's legal system," Li Hongcai said. "When I went to see her on Jan. 2, she was unable to walk, and had to be dragged along by two people."

"Her health used to be pretty good, and she was 1.5 meters tall, weighing more than 130 pounds, but she is so thin now, she can't weigh more than 80, I'd say," he said.

"I took some photos of her on my phone, but the guards saw me and told me to delete them," he said. "Her health just gets worse and worse, and if things carry on like this, she's going to die in there."

Li Hongcai said he had applied for Li Yanxiang's release on medical parole on Jan. 3.

Beijing-based rights activist Ji Xinhua, who was among several dozen people who signed a petition in support of Li Yanxiang, said she had stayed by his side in the hospital after he was beaten up by police during a petitioning visit, requiring surgery.

"I had broken bones, courtesy of the local police station, and underwent surgery at the Airforce Hospital, and she took care of me that evening, so we are on pretty good terms," Ji said. "She is a very polite and well-mannered woman, very soft-spoken."

"Now they are persecuting her like this; I know of so many people who have died in detention," he said.

Li Yuxiang's attorney Song Yusheng has lodged a formal complaint at her continued detention, saying she has already been punished for the allegations of trouble-making.

Last month, officials in the United States sanctioned a Chinese police officer under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act for his role in the death by neglect of human rights activist Cao Shunli while she was in a police detention center in Beijing.

Cao Shunli died in March 2014 at the age of 52 after being denied medical care while in a police-run detention center overseen by Gao.

She was only taken to hospital on Feb. 20 when her situation was already critical, doctors said at the time. Lawyers say they had urged officials holding her to allow her medical treatment but no action was taken until she was seriously ill.

Gao Yan was chief of police in Beijing’s Chaoyang district from January 2014 to October 2016, and bears “command responsibility” for the denial of medical care and other human rights abuses during his tenure.

He is the first Chinese national to be targeted under the Act, which allows the U.S. to target overseas officials in connection with human rights violations committed in other countries.

The Magnitsky Act enables U.S. officials to freeze any U.S. assets held by those sanctioned, and to bar them from entry into the United States.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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