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China 27 April 2006

Call for Shi Tao’s release on medical grounds

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the declining health of journalist Shi Tao and the conditions in his prison, calling for his release on medical grounds. Shi was sentenced to 10 years in prison in April 2005 on information provided by Yahoo!, which hosted his e-mail account.

Shi is being held in prison No. 1 in the central province of Hunan. It is on a small island near the city of Yuanjiang. His mother and brother are able to visit him once a month. He shares a cell with more than 10 other inmates and makes jewellery in a workshop of poor sanitary standards. His health has declined sharply in recent months. He has an ulcer, a heart ailment and skin problems caused by the dampness of his cell. And his family says his mental state has deteriorated.

The Wei Jingsheng Foundation has published a description of the prison by former inmate Chen Shaowen. He says the detainees hardly ever see the light of day. They begin working before dawn in dark workshops full of dust. Working in these conditions ends up “destroying their bodies and souls, their spirit and confidence,” he says.

According to Chen, the political prisoners are the target of constant violence. Convicted criminals are put in charge of the workshops, on the principle of “using criminals to deal with criminals”. Intimidation and corruption are rife within the prison, and guards often confiscate the money sent to inmates by their families.

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