Chinese lawyer reportedly lost teeth after being detained for more than 1000 days by the Chinese government

October 15th was the 1000th day that Chinese human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng had been detained in Chinese prison. On October 13, his lawyer visited him for the second time since his detention, and he found Yu’s health has further deteriorated since his first lawyer’s visit in August. According to his wife, Yu has been coughing for more than 20 days while his teeth began to fall off.

Chinese human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng has been detained by the Chinese government for more than 1000 days. He has not been free since January 2018, after he issued an open letter to the Chinese government, asking for political reform.

On October 13, one of his defense lawyers, Lin Chihlei, visited him for two hours. According to his wife Xu Yan, the lawyer realized that Yu’s health conditions had further deteriorated since his last lawyer’s visit in August.

“Yu lost a tooth on the upper right side of his mouth while teeth on his left side began to get loose, making him unable to chew food properly,” Xu said. “He began to have difficulty eating and he applied for dental checkup several times. However, the detention center hasn’t agreed to any of his requests yet. Such behavior is illegal.”

Apart from having difficulty eating, Xu said the injury on Yu’s right arm has further deteriorated as well. And since the detention center refused to offer Yu warm water, he has been coughing for more than 20 days. On top of that, Yu began to experience stiffness in his body while he sat on a bench, so Yu has been refusing to sit on a bench.

“It’s not difficult for the detention center to offer Yu warm water, and why wouldn’t they allow Yu to visit the doctors when he has been showing signs of sickness?” asked Yu’s wife. “His health conditions have further deteriorated and I suspect whether the detention center is intentionally depriving Yu of his rights to visit doctors, causing his health to further deteriorate.”

The lawyer also told Xu that food offered by the detention center was not good, and Yu experienced starvation for several months. Xu worries that as Yu couldn’t chew food normally and meals at the detention center was bad, Yu’s health conditions will continue to deteriorate.

“I requested the court to let Yu go to the doctors on bail in August, bu the court rejected my application,” Xu said. “Now Yu still can’t get the treatment that he needs and I don’t think the court will allow him to go visit doctors on bail in the future.”

Lawyers face interference while trying to access court documents

Xu Yan also said Yu’s defense lawyers faced some interference from the court while trying to access and copy legal documents for his case. On October 12, Yu’s lawyer Lu Siwei tried to copy disks containing legal documents of his case, but since the court didn’t allow him to keep copying the disks during lunch hours and after 5 p.m., he was only able to copy 33 out of 87 disks.

Xu thinks the Jiangsu Provincial High Court’s decision not to extend the hours for Yu’s lawyers to copy the legal documents is a way for them to delay the progress of Yu’s case.

“The defense lawyers need to copy these legal documents so they can write the defense for Yu,” Xu explained. “We demanded the Jiangsu Provincial High Court to make the second trial public, but I don’t think the court is going to agree to them. After all, they handed down Yu’s sentences in a secret trial earlier this year.”

Ongoing international attention for Yu’s case

During the same week, Xu Yan and the wife of another detained Chinese human rights lawyer met foreign diplomats from six countries, including the United States, the European Union, Canada, France, Sweden and the Netherlands. The wives shared updates about their husbands’ cases and hoped these countries can keep paying attention to these cases.

Additionally, on October 12, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders published the content of a Joint Allegation letter that they sent to the Chinese government in August. They expressed concerns about the imprisonment of Yu Wensheng as well as the broader pattern of the Chinese government’s growing restrictions on freedom of expression in China.

“To date, no response has been received to the communication,” the Special Rapporteur wrote in a statement.

Xu Yan said since his detention in early 2018, Xu and her son had only been able to briefly talk to Yu through a video call for five minutes once. She hasn’t been allowed to meet him at the detention center since then, and the government also hasn’t allowed Yu to call or write to her.

“All the letters that I sent to Yu have been returned and they also haven’t allowed him to write to me,” Xu said. “The Chinese government is trying to separate my family and this is completely illegal. I will try to keep asking to meet him but I don’t think they will allow it to happen.”

This article first appeared in Mandarin on DW’s Chinese website.

William Yang is a journalist based in Taiwan, where he writes about politics, society, and human rights issues in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.