A Chinese rights activist detained during an event marking the 25th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre two years ago has begun refusing food in protest against his prolonged pretrial detention, sparking fears for his health, his wife and lawyer said.
Yu Shiwen, from the Henan provincial capital Zhengzhou, is charged with “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” but his case has been subjected to prolonged and repeated delays.
“He is now using [the hunger strike] as a way of expressing his indignation at being detained beyond the legally specified time limit by the Guancheng District People’s Court,” Yu’s wife Chen Wei told RFA on Wednesday.
“As his wife, I feel very sad for him, but I really wish he wouldn’t [refuse food],” she said. “We told him that he shouldn’t do this.”
“The family are all very worried about him … I think he should be taking care of himself, and I don’t think this hunger strike is worth it.”
Speaking after Yu’s lawyer Ma Lianshun visited him in the Zhengzhou No. 3 Detention Center, Chen said her husband has now been held for 15 months after being charged, with no sign of a trial.
Ma confirmed that Yu is planning to refuse food until the 27th anniversary of the June 4, 1989 crackdown next month.
“He wants to go on hunger strike for a month, until June 4, but I’m not sure his health can stand it,” he said.
“The commemorative aspect of his protest is a big one, but we’ll have to see if he keeps it up, and whether it’s worth him risking his life to do this,” Ma said.
Ma said Yu was “visibly thinner” than the last time he saw him, and had less and less energy to write letters.
“But he definitely wants to make sure this news gets out,” Ma said, adding: “A lot of people are against his action, on medical grounds.”
“But a lot of people never read the article that the Chinese Communist Party wrote in the April 26, 1989 edition of the People’s Daily, saying that [the student-led pro-democracy movement] was clearly a counterrevolutionary rebellion.”
Yu is the last of the “Zhengzhou 10” activists detained for marking the 25th anniversary still behind bars.
Yu was detained alonside Chen, a fellow veteran of the 1989 pro-democracy movement in Guangzhou, in May 2014.
According to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, which collates and translates reports from rights groups inside China, Yu suffers from cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and depression.
Denied his regular medication while in detention, Yu suffered a stroke that left his lower body swollen, and he was shackled to a bed daily for several months in two prison hospitals, before asking to be discharged in November.
Since then, the detention center has refused to deliver medication from his relatives, while refusing to pay for the full range of medication itself, CHRD said.
“Yu Shiwen’s wife believes there is an extremely high risk that Yu will suffer another stroke, given the lack of adequate medicine and treatment and his past medical history,” the group said in an updated profile of Yu on its website.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.