Legal advocate Ji Sizun is severely ill and wishes to be released on medical parole, his lawyer has said.

Ji is a Fujian-based activist who has provided legal aid and training to petitioners for many years and is known to local activists as a “barefoot lawyer.” He was detained in October 2014 after openly supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement protests, and was later sentenced to 4.5 years for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place.”

In the West, Ji is perhaps best known for his efforts to protest against government corruption and abuses of power during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He was arrested after applying for a permit to hold a demonstration in one of the city’s three officially designated “protest zones” during the sporting event and was jailed for three years.

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Ji Sizun. File photo: Weiquanwang.

Ji’s lawyer Ji Zhongjiu told HKFP that his client is recovering from a stroke and is suffering coronary heart disease, as well as high blood pressure and diabetes. He and another lawyer, Lin Hongnan, visited their client on Monday.

“His health is not optimistic. When we saw him, he was bedridden and almost unable to move. But he still used the remaining consciousness he had to express his wish to obtain medical parole,” Ji said on Wednesday.

‘Basic humane principles’ 

According to his friend, activist Zhuang Lei, Ji’s family was notified of his poor health by prison officials at the end of January. Zhuang said they were told that Ji had been transferred to a prison hospital.

“His family is willing to work with [us] in the application for medical parole, so now it’s up to the department managing the detention centre,” lawyer Ji said.

“I hope the prison management authorities will let someone who is nearly 70 years old regain his health as soon as possible based on basic humane principles.”

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Lawyers Ji Zhongjiu and … Photo: Supplied to RFA by Zhuang Lei.

Another Fujian rights activist, Lin Yingqiang, told US-backed Radio Free Asia that the authorities may not grant Ji’s parole because he had influence within the Fujian community of petitioners and activists.

“Because Ji Sizun is highly respected among us Fuzhou petitioners, and everyone will listen to his command, for example in defending our rights or protesting suppression from authorities. The medical conditions within the prison are very poor, without even proper treatment for colds – for those who are dangerously ill like Ji Sizun, they are basically unable to receive humane or good treatment.”

A receptionist at the Fujian Provincial Prison Administration told HKFP that Ji had one year, two months and 19 days left of his sentence, but referred questions about Ji’s health and application for medical parole to the Putian Prison, where Ji is serving his sentence.

Multiple calls to the prison went unanswered.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.