World News

Shanghai activist dies hours after medical parole

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese activist who fought forced evictions and was jailed for two years for disturbing court order has died hours after he was released on medical parole, a New York-based human rights watchdog said on Friday.

Shanghai authorities had repeatedly rejected applications by Chen Xiaoming’s family to release him on parole for treatment for a chronic illness, Human Rights in China said in an e-mail.

When the activist was transferred to Shanghai’s Tilanqiao Prison Hospital from Baimaoling Prison in late June, his family found him “reduced to a skeletal condition, constantly vomiting blood and barely conscious”, the group said.

The authorities eventually approved Chen’s parole application and he was transferred to another Shanghai hospital on July 1, but died hours later after a massive haemorrhage.

Human Rights in China deplored Shanghai authorities’ repeated denial to grant medical parole to Chen. His family was allowed only one prison visit.

“There are also indications that ill treatment and beatings in prison were major factors in Chen’s death,” the group said.

A spokeswoman for the Shanghai city government, reached by telephone, denied knowledge of the case but said “the channel to petition (the government) was open”.

Chen was one of seven Chinese activists awarded the 2006 Housing Rights Defender Award by the Geneva-based Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions.

In nearby Hangzhou, capital of the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, veteran democracy campaigner Zhu Yufu was sentenced on Tuesday to two years in prison on charges of assaulting police, watchdog Chinese Human Rights Defenders said.

His son, Zhu Ang, was sentenced to one year on the same charge, but execution of the sentence was suspended for 18 months, the group said in an e-mail.

Zhu’s lawyer had entered a plea of not guilty. About 40 friends and supporters attended the trial.

“The trial was unfair. The judges ... did not listen to the lawyer’s defence,” the group quoted one supporter as saying.

Zhu merely pushed an officer away from his son, who was bleeding from the head after being hit by a policeman outside their home in April, it said. Officers had tried to question the pair about another dissident and pinned Zhu’s son to the ground.

Video from a surveillance camera in Zhu’s neighbourhood did not show him assaulting police, the watchdog said.

In an unrelated development, Jiang Yanyong, a military doctor who exposed an attempt to cover up the SARS outbreak in 2003, has been barred from travelling to the United States to collect the Heinz R. Pagels Human Rights of Scientists Award, said Jiang’s friend, AIDS activist Hu Jia.

Jiang became a hero to many Chinese for exposing the SARS cover-up that led to the sacking of the health minister and the Beijing mayor and prompted accurate reporting of the epidemic.