The family of an imprisoned woman who died an unnatural death has been denied state compensation. Ms. Zhao Shuyuan’s son filed an appeal to the Xinjiang Province Prison Management Bureau the day after she died, but it is unclear whether he had received a response before his mother’s body was forcibly cremated by the authorities on August 8.
Ms. Zhao, a Falun Gong practitioner, was incarcerated for filing a criminal complaint against former dictator Jiang Zemin for launching the devastating 17-year persecution of Falun Gong.
Death within 83 Days of Prison Admission
Ms. Zhao, an engineer from Karamay, Xinjiang Autonomous Region, died within 83 days of her prison admission for filing her criminal complaint against Jiang. She accused the former Chinese dictator of initiating the persecution of Falun Gong that resulted in her lengthy imprisonment in the past.
Family Accuses Prison of Dereliction
The 52-year-old Ms. Zhao was transferred to Xinjiang Women’s Prison in Urumqi on May 3 to serve a five-year term. Her health quickly declined, as the guards kept force-feeding and torturing her.
Meanwhile, the prison repeatedly denied Ms. Zhao’s family’s requests to have her released on medical parole. Even after she lost consciousness on three occasions, the prison still refused to render her proper treatment.
Ms. Zhao died on July 22.
According to China’s state compensation law, inmates are entitled to state compensation if they are injured or die as a result of abuse, mistreatment, or other human rights violation imposed on them by prison workers. Families of deceased inmates may further request compensation for non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
Ms. Zhao’s son and his two lawyers filed a state compensation request to the prison on July 26, demanding a total of 2 million yuan in special damages (covering medical expenses, funeral expenses, and loss of earnings) and general damages (covering mental suffering).
They accused the prison of dereliction that resulted in Ms. Zhao’s unnatural death.
The prison issued a decision one week later to deny state compensation. The very next day, on August 8, they had Ms. Zhao’s body cremated.
Timeline of Key Events Surrounding Ms. Zhao’s Final Months
November 5, 2015
Ms. Zhao was arrested in her hometown of Karamay, Xinjiang Autonomous Region.
February 17, 2016
Ms. Zhao was tried without her lawyers’ knowledge.
March 7, 2016
Ms.Zhao was sentenced to 5 years in prison.
May 3, 2016
Ms.Zhao was transferred to Xinjiang Women’s Prison in Urumqi.
May 10, 2016
Ms.Zhao was taken to Xinjiang Medical School Fifth Affiliated Hospital for a required checkup. The doctors reported she was in good health.
May 31, 2016
Ms. Zhao’s two lawyers met with her and were shocked to notice she had lost a significant amount of weight. They immediately filed a verbal request for her medical parole, but were turned down.
June 23, 2016
Ms. Zhao’s son and her lawyers submitted a written request for her medical parole, but were again unsuccessful.
June 26, 2016
Ms. Zhao lost consciousness and was rushed to Xinjiang Medical School Fifth Affiliated Hospital. When she came to hours later, the guards immediately took her back to prison, despite the doctors’ warning that her condition could deteriorate quickly without inpatient care.
July 12, 2016
Ms. Zhao passed out again and was sent to Xinjiang Air Force Hospital. The doctors said she was in serious condition, but she was again taken back to prison as soon as she regained consciousness later that day.
July 19, 2016
Ms. Zhao lost consciousness for a third time. She woke up about four hours later, only to slip into a coma shortly afterwards.
The doctors at Xinjiang Medical School Fifth Affiliated Hospital issued a critical condition notice at 6:00 p.m., but the prison insisted she be taken back, citing lack of funds to cover her medical expenses.
Her family strongly requested that Ms. Zhao stay in the hospital for further treatment at their own expense. The prison officials relented, but it was too late.
July 22, 2016
Ms. Zhao died at 6:05 p.m.
July 25, 2016
Ms. Zhao’s son hired two lawyers to help his family seek state compensation for his mother’s unnatural death.
July 26, 2016
The lawyers filed a written request for state compensation to Xinjiang Women’s Prison.
August 2, 2016
The prison issued a decision to reject the family’s state compensation request. Ms. Zhao’s son filed an autopsy request on the same day.
August 3, 2016
Ms. Zhao’s son filed an appeal to the Xinjiang Province Prison Management Bureau, hoping the agency would reverse the prison’s decision.
August 7, 2016
The prison hired a medical examiner to perform an autopsy on Ms. Zhao’s body. It is unclear if her family was given the autopsy results.
August 8, 2016
The prison had Ms. Zhao’s body cremated.