In early April, an appeal for the medical parole of Hu Jia, sentenced to three and a half years in prison in 2008 for “inciting subversion,” was rejected. It was the second refusal in less than a year to release Hu due to his deteriorating health, with his family submitting both requests. Hu suffers from cirrhosis, an incurable progressive liver disease, and his condition has worsened in prison. The appeal was made during a spell of bad health and after a growth appeared on Hu’s liver. After medical tests, officials responded by stating Hu’s cirrhosis didn’t meet the conditions for medical parole, and he was returned to Beijing Municipal Prison to continue serving his sentence.
As discussed in this issue’s lead story, China’s medical parole system has served as a road to release for prisoners with chronic medical problems, perhaps most notably Chinese political prisoners with health conditions that were not actually life-threatening. Many other countries have mechanisms in place to release prisoners facing extraordinary health issues. In the United States, where healthcare costs are skyrocketing at the same time that the prison population in the country is aging, humanitarians and fiscal pragmatists across the country are joining forces to try to expand the use of policies intended to release more of the oldest, sickliest, and costliest prisoners.
It seems every time a Chinese court hands down a verdict in a sensitive case—particularly criminal cases involving political dissidents—someone suggests the decision was decided in advance and “came from above.” Such statements do not display much faith in the fairness of China’s judicial institutions, and this lack of faith is unfortunately encouraged by the secrecy and lack of transparency surrounding the handling of sensitive cases.
In December 2009, Dui Hua received an unusual response to a request for information about Chinese prisoners. After finding published court records of the numbers of individuals sentenced for “endangering state security” in Guangdong Province in 2005 and 2006, Dui Hua asked its interlocutors if they could provide names and sentencing information for these cases. In response, Dui Hua was given a printout listing seven individuals, three of whom were formerly known to Dui Hua and four of whom were unknown.
Dui Hua weathers storms to conduct recent advocacy missions, holds event for 2010 Juvenile Justice Delegation to China, makes a submission for the first Universal Periodic Review of the United States.