By Mick Duncan
Chinese prison officials have refused a request by the families of jailed Liaoyang union activists Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang to grant Yao and Xiao medical parole for severe health problems.
Family members recently visited the two men in Liaoning Province's Lingyuan County No. 2 Prison, and found them in alarming physical condition. Yao has previously been sent to the prison hospital after losing consciousness twice due to a heart condition. He is also suffering from hearing loss and partial paralysis. Xiao is suffering from pleurisy and is almost entirely blind.
Yao and Xiao's families have requested that they be released for medical treatment outside of the prison system, a right that is provided for in Chinese law. But prison officials recently notified Yao's family that their request had been denied because of the "special circumstances" of Yao's case. Xiao's family is still awaiting a decision regarding their request.
The lack of access to appropriate medical care is part of the especially harsh treatment being meted out to Yao and Xiao in prison. Both men are kept in isolation and surveillance around the clock, and other prisoners are not allowed to speak with them.
Recently New York Times correspondent Nicholas Kristof reported that Liaoyang authorities forced him to leave the city when he attempted to visit the families of Yao and Xiao.