Mainland authorities have refused to grant medical parole to an ailing labour activist who helped organise some of the country's biggest worker protests, according to an advocacy group. Human Rights in China yesterday said prison officials in Liaoning province had told the family of activist Yao Fuxi that they would not allow him to receive medical treatment outside jail because of 'the special circumstances' of his case. Another activist, Xiao Yunliang, who was arrested with Yao, was still waiting for a decision regarding his request for outside medical treatment. Yao and Xiao were sentenced to seven and four years respectively in January for organising protests that attracted more than 30,000 people in Liaoyang, Liaoning, in March and April last year. A city court convicted them of attempted subversion. Family members of the two men who recently visited them said they were in poor health, according to the rights agency. Yao, 52, was said to have suffered severe heart disease and had lost consciousness twice. He was also reportedly suffering from hearing loss and partial paralysis. Xiao, 57, suffers from pleurisy and has lost most of his eyesight. His hands are also paralysed due to prolonged use of handcuffs, the report said. The men's families have requested they be released to receive medical attention, arguing that it is difficult to get good medical care in prison. The rights group yesterday denounced the central government's decision not to grant Yao medical parole. Yao and Xiao were first detained by police in March last year for leading thousands of workers from state-owned enterprises in a series of protests against corruption, embezzlement of wages and lost unemployment benefits. The protests and resulting trial, attracted wide international attention. Rights groups outside China have repeatedly called on the government to release the two men.