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Imprisoned Internet Dissident on Hunger Strike

June 2, 2003

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that Xu Wei, an Internet activist sentenced last week to 10 years in prison, has gone on hunger strike to protest ill treatment in custody.

Sources close to Xu Wei told HRIC that Xu has refused all food since his May 28 sentencing, and his health is rapidly deteriorating because of the abuse he suffered previously during his two years in custody while awaiting sentencing. Sources say that officials of the Beijing detention center in which Xu is being held became so concerned over his condition that they took the initiative to contact Xu’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, and asked him to visit Xu, apparently hoping Mo would convince Xu to resume taking sustenance.

Xu Wei’s fiancé, Wang Ying, has tearfully appealed to the news media and any other groups or individuals of influence to come to the aide of Xu and his three co-defendants, Yang Zili, Jin Haike and Zhang Honghai, all of whom were sentenced to lengthy prison terms on subversion charges last week because of political views they posted on the Internet.

Sources say that all four men have suffered harsh treatment in custody since their arrest in March 2001 because of their refusal to admit guilt. Xu Wei, being particularly stubborn, is reported to have been most severely abused through beating and electric shock. All four men have complained to the authorities about their treatment, but with no apparent effect.

Sources further report that detention center officials have refused to pass on a message to the four men by their families advising them to appeal their sentences. One official is reported to have responded to a family member, “There are no human rights now. These are unusual times – the time of SARS. Don’t you know?”

“This is the most large-scale sentencing of Internet activists in China so far, and it has raised great concern in the International community,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “The Chinese authorities cannot hope that their disgraceful treatment of these four men will escape notice, even while so much attention is diverted to the SARS crisis.”

HRIC urges the Chinese government to investigate the treatment of Xu Wei, Yang Zili, Jin Haike and Zhang Honghai in prison, and ensure that they receive no further ill treatment, in accordance with China’s obligations under the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In addition, HRIC calls on the Chinese government to ensure that the men receive all necessary medical attention to treat the injuries they have suffered already.