China’s jailed activist urges IOC chief to visit prison


Beijing : One of China’s most prominent human rights activists has written to International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Jacques Rogge to visit the jail where he is locked up to see prison conditions.

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He Depu said conditions at the prison have worsened as a result of the Olympics, especially for political prisoners.

He’s letter of April 26 passed through many hands before it was sneaked out of Beijing’s No. 2 Prison, where the activist is serving an eight-year sentence for demanding China improve its human rights record.

In the letter written 100 days before the beginning of the Olympic Games, He questioned Rogge’s previous claims that the Olympics will be a catalyst for change in China.

He said that in the run-up to the Aug 8-24 Games, prison authorities have actually stepped up restrictions of prisoners’ activities and increased supervision.

“Each time you come to Beijing and see the joyous spectacles here, do you know that just 10 or so kilometres away, Beijing’s political prisoners are suffering immensely for the progress of society and the elevation of human civilization?” He wrote in his letter, issued by Human Rights in China Thursday.

“What worries me most is that this ‘catalyst’ will not have a catalyzing effect in Chinese prisons whatsoever,” said He.

As a result of tightened security for the Olympics, the prison’s pathetic “study rooms” have been shut down, leaving prisoners with no choice but to be confined to their cells, which are smaller than 20 square meters, but contain 10 beds each, He said.

Political prisoners, like He, who do not admit to guilt are subject to inhumane treatment, He said, including being banned from calling or meeting their families or participating in recreational
activities organized by the prison.

Letters written to their families or sent to them are often not delivered, He said.

Food and medical treatment provided in prison are extremely poor, said He, adding that prisoners had mistakenly thought the food would improve during the Olympics, but it actually became worse, with no meat or oil, leaving prisoners malnourished.

The number of sick prisoners is increasing and the number of deaths is “extremely high”, He said.

He urged Rogge to help bring “urgently” needed changes to China’s prisons.

“I believe that the Olympic Games should not just be understood as a collection of competitions of active sports. They are athletic competitions, but even more so, they should be viewed as a movement for social progress that embodies the values of humanity, or a movement that promotes human civilization,” He said.

“Give some attention to the human rights’ conditions of prisoners, and see if your so-called “catalyst” has really done any good,” He said.

“We are not asking for a total transformation in the human rights condition. We are only asking for a small, basic change.”

He has participated in democracy movements in China since the 1970s. He also helped in the formation of the banned China Democracy Party in 1998.

He was detained in 2002 after signing an open letter to the 16th Communist Party of China congress calling for political reform. In 2003 he was sentenced to eight years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power,” for posting pro-democracy writings on the Internet.