Patient Pressed on Gifts

Chinese authorities foot medical bills after discouraging foreign aid for a cancer-stricken family.

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Troops-Truck-Urumqi-305.jpg Chinese paramilitary police trucks drive through downtown Urumqi, July 9, 2009.

HONG KONG—Authorities in northwest China have warned the family of a mother and son suffering from cancer to stop accepting overseas donations for his medical treatment, according to the boy’s mother.

Rozinishan, the 26-year-old mother of a young boy with leukemia, said she is grateful for contributions from fellow members of the Uyghur ethnic community to pay for her son’s medical treatment.

Rozinishan herself was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in November 2008 and has been unable to work to raise money for her eight-year-old son, Abdul Weli. Her husband died the same year after a fatal heart attack.

Rozinishan’s younger brother, Tohti Yusuf, said by telephone that after making the online plea, local government officials guaranteed they would take care of the family’s medical bills if they agreed to forego outside help.

“Right now, Abdul’s mother … is in Urumqi’s No. 2 Hospital being treated. The government of Hoten county is paying the bills for mother and son’s medical treatment,” Tohti Yusuf said from the hospital in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonmous Region (XUAR) capital, Urumqi.

“[The officials] asked us not to make any pleas to other communities from outside to help us. They said not to receive any help from overseas organizations,” he said.

Another of Rozinishan’s brothers in Seghizkol town, in Hoten prefecture’s Hoten county, where the family is based, said that the response from the Uyghur community has been overwhelming.

“After we pleaded on Web sites [for help in treating] Abdul and Rozinishan’s diseases, Uyghurs from everywhere started to donate. Of course some from overseas also sent some money,” he said.

The brother said that after posting the plea for donations, the head of the township government visited the family household to ask if any Uyghurs were donating money from overseas.

“He told us not to ask for help from Uyghur communities, especially Uyghur organizations in America. He also told us not to receive any help from any organizations overseas. He said Hoten county would take care of the treatment bills.”

Telephone calls to the Hoten county government office went unanswered. Abdul Weli’s doctor, Zibde, also could not be reached for comment.

Treatment unaffordable

Abdul Weli was originally diagnosed with leukemia in January 2010.

According to an interview with Tohti Yusuf in March, shortly after the family posted their plea online, funds gathered by the family to pay for Abdul and Rozinishan’s treatment were inadequate.

Tohti Yusuf said that Abdul Weli’s chemotherapy treatments alone cost some 5,000 yuan (U.S. $730) each, roughly what a rural Uyghur might earn in a year, while his full treatment is expected to cost from 200,000-300,000 yuan (U.S. $29,300-$44,000).

The family posted their telephone number, address, and bank account for direct deposits, as well as a list of needs for treatment. They declined to disclose how much they had recieved in donations.

Millions of Uyghurs—a distinct, Turkic minority who are predominantly Muslim—populate Central Asia and the XUAR in northwestern China.

Ethnic tensions between Uyghurs and majority Han Chinese settlers have simmered for years, and erupted in July 2009 in rioting that left some 200 people dead, according to the Chinese government’s tally.

Uyghurs say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness despite China's ambitious plans to develop its vast northwestern frontier.

They have also historically suffered a higher incidence of cancer, Uyghur activists say, which could be linked to China nuclear tests in the Xinjiang region.

Chinese authorities blame Uyghur separatists for a series of deadly attacks in recent years and accuse one group in particular of maintaining links to the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Exiled Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer has been accused by Beijing of fomenting violence that led to the deadly ethnic unrest in Urumqi last July.

The riots were sparked after a peaceful protest about the deaths of Uyghur migrants in a factory in southern China turned into clashes with police.

Kadeer has accused the authorities of firing on unarmed protesters in Urumqi, sparking days of retaliatory rioting, burning, and mob violence from both Uyghur and Han Chinese ethnic groups in the city.

Original reporting by Mihraban for RFA’s Uyghur service. Uyghur service director: Dolkun Kamberi. Translated from the Uyghur by Mamatjan Juma. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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