Ailing dissident officially healthy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 March, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 March, 1996, 12:00am

CHINA has taken the unusual step of refuting reports that imprisoned dissident Wei Jingsheng is in poor health.

Xinhua (the New China News Agency) said Wei was examined after he entered prison in January and although it was confirmed that he was suffering from hypertension and a fatty liver, coronary heart disease was ruled out after an electrocardiogram and 24-hour monitoring.

Xinhua said that Wei was treated in the prison hospital for his other ailments and is now in a healthy condition.

Wei, who has already spent over 16 years in prison or detention, has long complained of angina according to his brother Wei Xiaotao.

'He often took medicine for angina during his first period in prison and after his release went to see several doctors seeking treatment,' Wei Xiaotao said.

The dissident's brother said that during a prison visit he had discussed with Wei the possibility of applying for his release to obtain medical treatment outside prison.

'We have not made a formal application but we discussed it under the guards' noses and that is perhaps why Xinhua has put out the story,' he said.

His brother also said reports that Wei was in an unheated cell and suffering from cold were untrue.

However Wei Xiaotao said he was still concerned about his brother's health and the possibility of heart problems.

'He complains of frequent chest pains that last for as long as 30 minutes but in the prison they said that in coronary heart cases periods of pain only last two or three minutes,' he said.

'My brother was also examined when he was in detention and there the doctor said that many people who were considered ill outside prison were labelled as healthy when they were inside'.

During his first imprisonment, Wei's physical condition deteriorated from the harsh conditions and lack of food and he lost most of his teeth. Earlier this year Wei was also said to be suffering from arthritis and had difficulty walking.