Ji Sizun (纪斯尊)

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Ji Sizun (纪斯尊)

Ji Sizun   纪斯尊

(deceased)

Previously under medical watch*

Ji sizun

Crime: Gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place & picking quarrels and provoking troubles

Length of Punishment: 4.5 years

Court: Minhou County People’s Court, Fujian Province

Trial Date: December 15, 2015

Sentencing Date: April 18, 2016

Dates of Detention/Arrest: October 21, 2014 (detained); December 19, 2014 (arrested); April 26, 2019 (released)

Verdict: Fujian Province Minhou County People’s Court Criminal Verdict

Date of Birth: December 10, 1949

Medical condition: Stroke, partial paralysis, high blood pressure, diabetes, intestinal cancer, bowel surgery

Place of Incarceration: Putian Prison, Fujian Province (pre-trial detention in Fuzhou No. 1 Detention Center)

Background Information

Barefoot lawyer Ji Sizun died in the intensive care unit of Xiangcheng District Hospital, Zhangzhou City on July 10, 2019 following his release from prison in late April. The exact cause of death is unknown, but he had suffered from a paralyzing stroke in prison, intestinal cancer, and had bowel surgery in prison. Ji’s body was sent to the funeral home for cremation just hours after he passed away after authorities sent a large contingent of police to coerce the family into agreeing into an immediate cremation. Ji’s family were allowed to briefly visit him on July 10 after being alerted that his condition had significantly deteriorated. Ji was in a coma when they arrived and doctors said his condition had worsened as a result of internal bleeding but did not divluge where the bleeding was or more details about his condition. Ji’s friends and supporters in other cities were blocked from going to the hospital by local authorities. While hospitalized, Ji was under extralegal detention as four plainclothes police officers guarded Ji’s room and at times prevented his family and friends from visiting. The hospital refused to share information about his condition with his family during that time.

Fujian police initially took Ji Sizun into custody on October 21, 2014, initially holding him in an extralegal “black jail” for seven days, before releasing him and then administratively detained him for 15 days on October 28 for “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place” and “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” He had been picked up after publicly supporting the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong that began earlier that month, and while he was traveling to Beijing to attend a conference on land issues at the invitation of People’s Daily. Fuzhou police then criminally detained Ji on suspicion of the same crimes on November 17, 2014, and formally arrested him in December.

Ji was indicted in September 2015. The indictment against him charged that he had organized two protests by petitioners, one on August 11, 2014, outside the Department of Land and Resources of Fujian Province and another on September 10, 2014, outside the Fujian Province High People’s Court. A Fujian court put Ji on trial on December 15, 2015 and convicted him in April 2016. His lawyer argued that the case was flawed and that Ji’s legal rights had been seriously violated, but his complaints were ignored. Ji appealed his 4.5-year sentence, but the appeal was turned down in December 2016.

Ji Sizun’s health has seriously deteriorated during his incarceration, and he reportedly suffered a debilitating stroke and has not received sufficient medical treatment for a number of severe health conditions. Ji’s lawyer visited him in June 2016 and learnt that Ji’s health had become poor. Ji was exhausted, suffering from high blood pressure and low blood sugar, and was being held in a damp room and only provided with extremely poor quality food.

In January 2018, Ji’s lawyer, Lin Hongnan (林洪楠), received a letter from the activist indicating that he had been transferred to Jianxin Hospital (a facility connected to Putian Prison) on January 19, apparently after a stroke. Ji reportedly had a serious amount of blood in his stool and had undergone a gastroscopy. Prison officials notified Ji’s family on January 25 that Ji also had severe high blood pressure and diabetes as well as a brain stem issue. Ji’s family reported on February 2, 2018 that his condition had become critical: Ji was in-and-out of consciousness and needed an oxygen tank to breathe. His lawyer Ji Zhongjiu (纪中久) met with him briefly in the hospital on February 5 and submitted an urgent request for release on medical parole on February 7, but the application was not approved.

Lawyer Ji Zhongjiu visited the activist in the hospital on May 7, 2018, and learned that he had been bedridden since the stroke in January. Ji reportedly could not move his limbs on his left side of his body due to partial paralysis and was extremely weak, his speaking voice barely audible to lawyer Ji. Ji reportedly told the lawyer that the hospital was unable to provide him adequate medical treatment or nutritious food. Police officers closely monitored the visit, which lasted less than a half hour. As his poor health persisted, Ji underwent bowel surgery in late November 2018 and was not allowed to meet his lawyer until December 20, 2018, where the lawyer saw that Ji was still very weak. The 20-minute long meeting was monitored in person by police and recorded.

Authorities released Ji Sizun on April 26, 2019 at the end of his prison sentence and immediately took him to the intensive care unit of Xiangcheng District Hospital in Zhangzhou City, Fujian, his hukou-registered region. His family were not allowed to freely visit him for the first few days after his release, and have continued to face restricions on visiting him. They said he was released practically in a coma and he appeared “close to death.” Only one family member was allowed to view him through a window at the hospital on the day of his release. A friend of Ji’s that visited the hospital that day noted that there were over 30 police officers at the scene.

The first and only time Ji’s family have been allowed to visit him was May 6. He appeared extremely thin, was unable to eat on his own and was being fed by a tube, and was connected to an intravenous drip. Ji underwent bowel surgery in late 2018, which meant he had to be fed through a bag, but the hospital and authorities have not provided his family with a clear diagnosis of his current medical situation. Ji was in-and-out of consciousness had trouble recognizing his family members. His family were only allowed to visit him one-at-a-time for 15 minutes. (Ji Sizun has 8 brothers and sisters) There were four guards guarding his room, despite Ji not being under any compulsory criminal measures.

Following that one visit, authorities began to block Ji’s family from visiting him. On May 14, Ji’s younger sister’s family arrived from Xiamen to visit him but were prevented by officers guarding Ji’s room. The next day, Ji’s other younger sister from Changtai County, Zhangzhou tried to visit him and was again blocked from guards, who only allowed her to look through a window at the intensive care unit.

Ji’s older sister Ji Xiuzhang (纪秀妆) and his younger sister from Changtai attempted to visit him on May 24, but police guards at the hospital again refused to allow them in, though they were able to look at him through the glass. The doctors and nurses at the hospital did not give his family an update or any explanation on his condition. Based on their observations, they believe his condition has worsened. He cannot move his head nor one of his arms, and he looks very weak and tired. He appeared to be coming in-and-out of consciousness His family repeated their concerns he may not survive.

On June 5, Ji’s lawyer attempted to visit him at Xiangcheng District Hospital with a friend, according to CHRD’s sources. The four plainclothes police officers guarding Ji’s hospital room refused to allow them to visit Ji or speak with hospital staff, but they were permitted to view Ji through the window. Ji reportedly opened his eyes briefly to look at them through the window. On June 6, his lawyer and friend successfully met Ji Sizun after speaking with officials at the Xiangcheng District judicial bureau who accompanied them on the visit. Reportedly officials said that the government would cover Ji’s medical expenses under their “Three-No Person” policy for residents who are unable to support themselves or work. During the bedside visit, Ji was informed for the first time that he had been awarded the Cao Shunli award and expressed his gratitude. Ji’s illness reportedly worsened on the journey from the prison to the hospital, but has since stabilized, according to the attending doctor. Ji could speak a little, albeit slowly, and he was reportedly clear-minded.

On July 10, 2019, Ji Sizun died in hospital. Ji’s family were allowed to briefly visit him in the mornng of July 10 after being alerted that his condition had significantly deteriorated. Ji was in a coma when they arrived and doctors said his condition had worsened as a result of internal bleeding, but did not diviluge where the bleeding was or more details about his condition. Ji reportedly passed away around 13:30, and after police coerced the family into agreeing to an immediate cremtation, his body was transferred to the funeral home at 15:30.

Authorities had pressured Ji Sizun’s family to dismiss one of his lawyers in  March 2018 after the lawyer helped file an application medical parole the month before, according to CHRD’s sources. Authorities had promised to handle Ji’s medical treatment if they took that step, but between February 2018 and his release in April 2019, Ji’s condition did not improve and became much worse. The family were extremely angry when Ji was released in the state he was in, as they felt authorities had lied about providing medical treatment.

Ji Sizun, born in 1949, is a Fujian-based activist who had provided legal aid and offered legal training to petitioners for many years. In 2008, police detained Ji after he applied for a permit to demonstrate in an official Beijing Olympics “Protest Zone.” Ji was accompanied by a dozen domestic and foreign journalists when he first tried to apply. For this activity, he was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison on charges of “forging official documents and seals.” Ji was born in Xiangcheng District, Zhangzhou City, which is his hukou-registered region, but for the previous two decades lived and worked on human rights issues in Fuzhou.

*CHRD’s Watch List of Detainees and Prisoners of Conscience in Need of Medical Attention

Further Information

China: End Deaths in Extrajudicial Detention & Torture by Deprived Medical Treatment, July 11, 2019, CHRD (中文版本)

China Detains a Former Prisoner of Conscience in Hospital, June 6, 2019, CHRD

Ji Sizun Named 2019 Recipient of Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders, March 14, 2019, CHRD

[CHRB] What You Need to Know About Last Week’s Prison Sentences & Xi Jinping’s 2014 Crackdowns (4/1-4/12, 2016), CHRD

[CHRB] Activist Given 4-Year Sentence Despite Terminal Illness; Update on Persecuted Mainland Supporters of Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protests (2/17-2/25/2016), CHRD

Abysmal Human Rights Conditions & Systematic Failure to Play by Rules Make China Unfit to Host 2022 Winter Games, July 28, 2015, CHRD

China Human Rights Briefing January 11-18, 2011, CHRD

Submission to UN on Ji Sizun – November 15, 2008, CHRD

Activist Formally Arrested for Applying to Protest during the Olympics, November 11, 2008, CHRD

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