04/09/2010, 00.00
CHINA

Jailed dissident Hu Jia might have liver cancer

The dissident’s wife said the authorities are refusing to treat him. Hu is well known for his fight for AIDS prevention in China, but prison authorities have refused to abide by the law and allow him to be tested and treated. Human rights groups call on Beijing to release him on medical parole.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia may be suffering from liver cancer, his wife Zeng Jinyan said. She has accused Chinese authorities of doing nothing to stop the disease that is killing her husband. Imprisoned early in 2008, he spearheaded the fight against AIDS.

Mr Hu, the 2008 Sakharov Award laureate, has been listed for the Nobel Peace Prize in the past two years. On 30 March, he underwent testing at the Beijing Municipal Prison after a previous examination revealed a growth in his liver. Ms Zeng, who is also a human rights activist, said her husband already had Hepatitis B, a chronic infection, before his arrest in January 2008.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) director Renee Xia said that prison authorities have refused to treat Hu’s illness. “Overwhelming evidence from the past two years demonstrates that Hu has not been receiving adequate care in prison medical facilities,” she said, this despite the law, which requires prisons to provide inmates with adequate medical care.

The dissident’s conditions worsened on 30 March, forcing his hospitalisation. Since then he has not been taken back to his cell and his family has not been told why, his wife, Zeng Jinyan, said.

The authorities “should immediately grant [Hu] medical parole,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a note released yesterday. “Prison authorities have over the past two years repeatedly denied applications by Hu Jia's wife and fellow activist, Zeng Jinyan, for Hu Jia's medical parole. Explanations have ranged from unverified assessments by prison staff that he is not ‘critically ill’ to allegations that Hu Jia is ‘disobedient’ and refused to be ‘quiet’,” the note read.

Hu, 36, is known in China for his campaigns in favour of AIDS patients. He has also been an advocate for democracy and complete religious freedom, and has been in favour of self-determination for Tibet.

Over the years, he has become a leading figure among Chinese dissidents. He has put together documentation, prepared legal cases and collected the work of other opponents to China’s Communist regime for the international community. He has cooperated with foreign media and embassies, providing them with information about human rights violations by the Communist Party.

In his latest encounter with China’s legal system, he was convicted and sentenced to three and half years prison for co-writing an open letter, with pro-democracy attorney Teng Biao, criticising China’s one party state and the way the Chinese Communist Party used the Beijing Olympics for its own propaganda purposes.

The CHRD and other human rights associations have called on the authorities to release the activist on humanitarian grounds. “[W]e reiterate our belief that Hu Jia’s incarceration is arbitrary,” CHRD said. His trial “fell short of international fair trial standards,” HRW noted. Now he should be released on medical parole.

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