China - Humanitarian release requested for ailing cyber-dissident Zhang Jianhong, who is facing permanent paralysis



    MONTREAL, Aug. 9 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage
today at the failure of the prison authorities to treat ailing writer and
cyber-dissident Zhang Jianhong, who is also known by the pen-name of Li Hong.
Imprisoned since September 2006, Zhang has been in a critical condition for
the past three months and could become permanently paralysed.
    "While China celebrates the approach of the Olympic Games, a prisoner of
conscience risks being paralysed for the rest of his life for lack of
treatment in prison," the press freedom organisation said. "For more than two
months, the authorities have been turning a deaf ear to Zhang's request to be
treated in hospital. We call for the immediate release of this
cyber-dissident, whose dramatic plight is causing even further damage to
China's image."
    Zhang's wife told Radio Free Asia on 5 August: "The prison officials told
me on 26 June he was getting treatment but would have to follow the legal
procedure to obtain permission to be hospitalised. I have not been able to see
him since then. I hope the authorities show enough humanity to allow him to be
hospitalised as soon as possible. If they do not, I cannot imagine what will
happen."
    The same day, more than a thousand friends, colleagues and sympathisers
posted an open letter on the Boxun (www.boxun.com) news website calling for
Zhang's release for humanitarian reasons. "If Li Hong (Zhang) is not treated
quickly, he could become completely paralysed and die," the letter said. "If
anything terrible happens to him, China could no longer be a credible
international partner."
    One of the letter's signatories, Wu Fan, the editor of Zhongguo Shiwu
(Chinese Affairs), said of Zhang: "He is someone who wishes the country well.
He never wanted to overthrow the government (...) He is an academic, not a
terrorist. He cannot be treated in this fashion."
    Zhang's lawyer, Li Jianqiang, received a letter from him in June saying:
"My illness is extremely rare. Currently there is no medicine or effective
treatment. My condition has deteriorated in the past month and my muscles are
atrophying. I virtually cannot move my arms and this phenomenon is spreading
to my legs. My feet are already paralysed. If this continues, I will be
subjected to the terrible ordeal of complete paralysis, like British physicist
Stephen Hawking."
    Zhang was sentenced by a court in Ningpo, in the southeastern province of
Zhejiang, on 19 March to six years in prison for writing "articles defaming
the Chinese government and calling for agitation to overthrow the government."
    A member of the Chinese branch of the independent writers association
PEN, Zhang founded the literary website Aiqinghai.org in 2005. He also posted
regularly on the Weilai Zhongguo forum and wrote articles for Chinese websites
based abroad. He spent a year and a half in a reeducation-through-work camp
after getting involved in the 1989 pro-democracy movement.




For further information:

For further information: Emily Jacquard, Directrice générale, Reporters
Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514) 521-7771,
rsfcanada@rsf.org

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