Wife of renowned Chinese freelance political writer Zhang Lin recently said that Zhang has fallen ill in prison. Zhang was sentenced last August to five years in prison on charges of inciting subversion and is currently serving time at Tongling Prison in Anhui province, China.
Zhang's wife, Fang Cao, visited Zhang on Monday, May 15 and learned he was suffering from severe cervical disc apophysis. The doctors recommended surgery. If not treated in time, Zhang could be paralyzed.
According to Fang, Zhang has had the disease for many years, but the condition rapidly worsened recently. Zhang's previous imprisonment and years in forced labor camps left him with many illnesses. All his fingers are stiff. He can type using his right index finger only.
Fang sounded weak on the phone. She said she felt like she was about to collapse. She prays to God that Zhang will survive this new tribulation.
Fang visits Zhang once a month or every other month. The bus ride from Bangbu city where Fang lives to Tongling takes over eight hours. There is no direct bus connection. She has to transfer buses in Hefei city, Anhui Province.
When she arrives at the prison, she isn't allowed to see Zhang right away. A few times Fang was the first to arrive to the visitation room but was the last to be allowed to visit. The visits are limited to 30 minutes. There are two layers of glass separating them and a phone for connection. A prison guard listens to all the conversations. They cannot discuss any sensitive political issues and can only talk about matters at home.
When Fang visited Zhang on May 15, she found that he moved very slowly and could not stand straight. His face also looked stiff. During the half-hour conversation, he kept using his hand to support his neck and often frowned.
Zhang told Fang he had severe cervical disc apophysis. His head and limbs have been hurting. He is in pain every waking moment.
Because the prison does not have an adequate medical facility, Zhang is not able to receive proper treatment. When the pain became unbearable for Zhang, a prison guard took him to Tongling First People's Hospital for an examination. The doctors confirmed that he had cervical disc apophysis. The cervical disc protruded 0.7 cm, which applied pressure to the central nervous system and caused pain and difficulty moving. Now Zhang requires the use of drugs to relieve the pain.
After Fang returned from her visit, she consulted two of the best hospitals in Bangbu city — The Third People's Hospital and Bangbu Medical University Hospital. The doctors concluded that Zhang must undergo surgery immediately. No drugs or physical therapy can truly cure him. If not operated in time, Zhang may be paralyzed.
Zhang wrote Fang a letter on May 2, which Fang did not receive until May 17. In his letter, Zhang described his illness. He said that since last October, he has been having problems with his legs. He could not stand up easily and had to use his arms to pull himself up. The situation has recently worsened, especially his knees. Sometimes he could not squat due to the pain.
Fang is very concerned about Zhang's health. She said she would inquire about medical parole programs, or at least request that the prison arrange for surgery for Zhang Lin.