Chinese dissident in prison sends wife 'suspect' letter

Zhang Haitao, an outspoken critic of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's treatment of the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic group, is serving a 19-year jail term at Xinjiang's Shaya Prison for "incitement to subvert state power" and spying charges, RFA reported.

The wife of a Chinese dissident from the northwestern region of Xinjiang jailed for subversion after standing up for Uyghurs says she has received what could be a forcibly written letter from him, prompting fears of "extreme persecution" in prison, a media report said.

Zhang Haitao, an outspoken critic of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's treatment of the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic group, is serving a 19-year jail term at Xinjiang's Shaya Prison for "incitement to subvert state power" and spying charges, RFA reported.

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He was handed the sentence by the Intermediate People's Court in Urumqi, regional capital of Xinjiang, on January 15, 2016.

Even before the pandemic, which has led the authorities lock down prisons and ban face-to-face meetings, Zhang had only been allowed three family visits during the first five years of his sentence.

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Since then, his wife Li Aijie, who fled China with her son after being harassed and threatened by local authorities, has only received a handful of letters from Zhang.

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The most recent letter came after a gap of one year and eight months, and didn't appear to be genuine, Li told the media outlet.

"The obvious difference this time is that he wrote in the letter that he was eating very well, and in very specific terms; he mentioned beef, lamb, chicken, milk and eggs, etc," Li said.

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"I don't think a lot of ordinary people in China eat that well (outside of prison)," she said. "It was a bit hard to believe."

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"I think the prison authorities forced him to write those things," Li said, RFA reported.

The letter, dated June 27, 2022, is only the fifth Zhang has sent to his family since his sentence began.

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In it, Zhang also says he has good clothing, and tells his family not to try to visit.

"The letter I received said there was no need to visit him," she said, adding that Zhang has spent time in solitary confinement.

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