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Leading Pro-Democracy Dissident Imprisoned for Life Suffers Stroke


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Associated Press Worldstream

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June 30, 2004 Wednesday


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LENGTH: 539 words

HEADLINE: Report: Prison authorities denying medical care to ailing labor leaders




Prison authorities are refusing medical care to two ailing Chinese labor leaders, a human rights group reported Wednesday.

Ex-factory worker Xiao Yunliang, 58, is now nearly blind and suffers from heart, liver, and gallbladder ailments that have caused his stomach and face to swell, the China Labor Bulletin reported.

Former steel worker, Yao Fuxin, 56, reportedly suffers from pleurisy, heart problems and high blood pressure, along with leg and hearing problems, the Hong Kong-based group said.

The two were imprisoned two years ago after organizing massive labor protests in the northeastern city of Liaoyang. Their families say they have been beaten and given substandard food, but appeals last year for parole on medical grounds were denied.

"It is believed that political pressure is being brought to bear upon the prison authorities to continue refusing proper medical care, examinations and follow-up treatment," China Labor Bulletin said.

Police and court officials in Liaoyang could not be reached or refused comment. Lingyuan prison, where the two men are reportedly being held, does not have a listed phone number.

Yao was sentenced to seven years and Xiao to four after tens of thousands of laid-off workers marched in the spring of 2002 to demand benefits from bankrupt state-owned factories in some of the largest protests since the 1949 communist revolution.

State media said the men were convicted of subversion for trying to set up a would-be opposition party to challenge the Communist Party's monopoly on political power. Their families say authorities provided little evidence and Chinese officials have offered conflicting accounts of their alleged crimes.

China allows only government-controlled unions and often uses vague security laws to prosecute independent labor activists.

The men's cases were raised by U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao during meetings with Chinese officials last week. Chao described their situation as "very serious and very sad," but gave no details about her comments to officials or their responses.

According to the China Labor Watch, Xiao was given a June 2 examination at a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang, but more detailed checks on his lungs and liver were refused along with any follow-up care, it said.

In a separate report, human rights groups said imprisoned Chinese dissident Wang Bingzhang, 55, has suffered a stroke and has contracted phlebitis, a potentially deadly condition that causes the arteries to become inflamed.

Wang's sister Wang Mei said that during a prison visit in the southern province of Guangdong on Tuesday, Wang appeared weak and his movements were "very slow and badly coordinated," said the U.S.-based Free China Movement.

Wang, a longtime dissident leader based in the United States, was sentenced to life in prison last year on charges of spying for Taiwan and allegedly plotting a bomb attack on China's embassy in Thailand.

Police say Wang was arrested after he was found tied up in a temple in southern China in July 2002. However, pro-democracy activists charge that Chinese agents abducted him in Vietnam after he secretly met with Chinese labor leaders in Hanoi. They deny the allegations against him.

LOAD-DATE: July 1, 2004


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