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Dissident's Health Worsening, Says Wife

January 2, 2007
Hohhot, Inner Mongolia



Hada at the Inner Mongolia Jail No.4 at Chifeng City. (SMHRIC photo)



HOHHOT - The health of an ethnic Mongolian Chinese political prisoner has seriously deteriorated, his wife said on Monday, pleading with the outside world not to forget her husband and keep pressuring Beijing.

Hada was tried behind closed doors in China’s northern Inner Mongolia region in 1996 and sentenced to 15 years in jail for separatism and spying and his support for the Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance, which sought greater rights for ethnic Mongolians.

“He is not being treated well. He is ill and had aged and weakened visibly the last time I saw him,” Hada’s wife Xinna told Reuters in an interview in the Inner Mongolian city of Hohhot on the day restrictions on foreign journalists’ travel were eased.

“He is not even allowed to receive the food, books or newspapers I send him,” she said over a traditional Mongolian breakfast of salty tea, cheese and fried dough. Amnesty International considers Hada a prisoner of conscience and has expressed fear about his health and that he has been tortured.

Xinna said she did not know if he had been tortured, but added that he was banned from speaking Mongolian to other prisoners and that he was being kept in isolation.

He is in jail in Chifeng, a city in Inner Mongolia northeast of Beijing.

Hada ran a Mongolian-language bookshop in Hohhot, along with his wife.

Inner Mongolia is supposed to have a high degree of autonomy, but like Tibet and Xinjiang in the far west, Beijing in practice keeps a tight rein on the region, fearing ethnic unrest in the country’s strategic border areas.

Xinna said that she was not optimistic her husband would be released early, even as a sign of goodwill ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and appealed for continued pressure from outside the country.

“I have written so many letters to President Hu Jintao. China continues to lock up people from ethnic minorities as it has done for decades. People are still dying in jail,” she said. “I have never received a response.”

“We need the support of the media and human rights groups to make sure he is not forgotten,” Xinna added.

Xinna has been detained by police twice, but never formally charged.

Her last brush with the authorities was in November, when police raided Mongolian book and music shops across Hohhot and seized stock on the pretext of cracking down on copyright piracy.

She said she had been forewarned of the raid and managed to minimise her losses, but the police kept tabs on her constantly.

“It’s been better in the last two years, since the foreign press started paying attention to this case,” Xinna said, standing on a snow-covered pavement outside her shop, where she sells everything from children’s books to vodka.

“They watch me all the time,” she added, pointing to an unmarked car with blacked-out windows parked across the street.

Xinna says she tries to keep her hopes up, but with her husband so far away — Chifeng is several hundred kilometres east of Hohhot — she can see him at most only twice a year.

“He doesn’t even have the right to read,” she added sadly.  




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