At least ten free-speech activists are at risk of dying behind bars in China, as authorities continued their crackdown on online speech across the country, a Paris-based press freedom group said on Friday.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published a list of ten defenders of press freedom whose lives it said were “in grave danger” if they remained in prison.
Three years ago to the day, Liu Xiaobo, a writer, literary critic, human rights activist, philosopher and Nobel Peace Prize laureate died of an aggravated cancer after being denied treatment during detention.
Liu called for political reforms and was involved in campaigns to end communist one-party rule in China. Some referred to him as “China’s Nelson Mandela.”
RSF said at least 114 journalists and press freedom defenders are currently locked away in Chinese jails, some under a life sentence.
It said at least 10 are serving lengthy prison terms and are in danger of losing their lives owing to ill-health, including ethnic minority Uyghurs Ilham Tohti, 50, and Gulmira Imin, 42, who both edited websites targeted by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Former Boxun, RFA, and Voice of American (VOA) journalist Zhang Haitao, 49, is serving a 19-year jail term for subversion after making comments critical of the Chinese government in overseas media, RSF said.
Zhang had been “beaten and forced to wear heavy irons on [his]feet for six months, and denied sustenance,” it said.
Meanwhile, democracy activist and website editor Qin Yongmin, 66, “has grown weak after a total of 20 years spent in detention and labour camps in previous decades,” RSF said. “His health has significantly deteriorated.”
RSF also cited concerns for the health of octogenarian publisher Yiu Man-tin, who is asthmatic and has suffered five heart attacks in prison, though repeated requests for medical parole have been denied.
It said Swedish national and former Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai, 56, has symptoms of a serious neurological disease, but has been denied access to a doctor requested by the Swedish embassy.
And free speech activist Wu Gan, 47, has lost 15 kilograms since being tortured and mistreated in detention, and suffers from cardiovascular problems as a result of electrocution, it said.
Political cartoonist Jiang Yefei, 53, who was repatriated to China by Thailand despite being a U.N.-approved political refugee, has reportedly been tortured while serving his sentence in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing, with reports of vision loss in one eye, RSF said. (Source: RFA)