A Christian house church leader imprisoned by authorities in China is in need of desperate hospitalization after coming down with a flesh-eating and debilitating disorder, his defense attorneys and wife are saying.
Pastor Yang Hua, who heads the the Living Stone house church in Guiyang, is one of seven Chinese Christians recently sentenced for distributing Christian devotionals. He was arrested in December 2015, tried last December on charges of "deliberately divulging state secrets" and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.
According to China Aid, one of Yang's defense attorneys met with him in prison on March 20 and was alarmed by the 41-year-old pastor's deteriorating health condition. He explained that Yang needed to be carried into the meeting room by three of his cellmates, while his face expressed that he was in a lot of pain and seemed to be on the verge of paralysis.
Three days before the meeting, the attorney explained, Yang's legs became inflamed and ulcers began spreading fast. The prison doctor diagnosed Yang's condition to be a superficial skin infection, and only gave him painkillers and sent him back to prison.
The attorney returned to the prison last Friday to check up on his client and was informed that Yang had been given an examination at Guizhou Provincial People's Hospital.
According to China Aid, Yang has issued a lengthy statement describing his condition.
"On March 17, ulcers began to appear on my legs. I reported it to the detention center, but the staff said they had seen this many times before, and that it was nothing more than 'impetigo' [an infectious, superficial bacterial skin infection]," Yang was quoted as saying. "On March 18, the resident doctor gave me some medication. By March 19, after the festering had spread, I again requested that the detention center provide proper treatment, such as injections or an IV."
"On March 20 and 21, the physician on duty put me on an IV drip. The burning pain was so much at this point, however, that I couldn't sleep for several nights. From around 3:30 to 4 a.m. on the 22nd, the agony was truly unbearable," he continued. "I rang the alarm to report to the cadres on duty. Officer Luo, on watch that night, was furious at being disturbed and screamed some truly awful obscenities at me. No one else in the cell was able to sleep, so in the end the physician on duty gave me two painkillers. I haven't been able to walk or go to the toilet by myself during this period."
Yang explained that on the morning of March 22, he was brought to the hospital where he was diagnosed with allergic vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels). Yang said he was told that if a cure could not be found, his leg might need to be amputated above the knee.
On March 23, Yang was transported to a police hospital where he was evaluated by five doctors who recommended that authorities take him to a regular hospital.
"[The doctors] also indicated that the cost of treatment might be extremely high," Yang said. "That day I submitted a written request for hospital treatment, asking the detention center authorities to quickly arrange it. On the morning of March 24, I was brought to the Guizhou Provincial People's Hospital to have a blood and urine test. Though they had the results that morning, the guards refused to inform me of them except to say that the HIV/AIDS test had come back negative."
According to China Aid, both of Yang's defense lawyers are adamant that he needs to be admitted to a hospital qualified to provide the treatment that he needs and that not getting him the treatment will only make his condition worse.
Yang's lawyers have submitted a request to prosecutors in Guiyang for them to review Yang's case and determine if it is really necessary to keep Yang detained. The prosecutors informed them that the case is "sensitive" and that they would have to consult the judge who handled Yang's case.
One positive thing to come from the ordeal is that Yang was able to finally see his wife for the first time since he was arrested over a year ago. China Aid reports that Yang's wife came with a lawyer to the prison just as Yang was coming back from a test at the provincial hospital. She was later able to accompany Yang to the police hospital.
The human rights organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that Yang's wife requested to see his medical records but was denied.
However, China Aid reports that Yang's wife wrote a letter to local parishioners explaining that the doctors clued her in as to what is going on with her husband. She explained that there are large areas of necrosis [death of cells caused by disease] around her husband's shins and "seeping wounds."
"The provincial hospital diagnosed it as 'anaphylactoid purpura' [a kind of blood vessel inflammation]. I saw that both of Yang Hua's legs were covered in rashes and spots of necrosis. Around the shins on both legs, in particular, there's a large area of necrosis and seeping wounds," China Aid quoted the letter as detailing.
"The feet are swollen up to the ankles. The doctor said they'd use large doses of hormones and anti-inflammatory drugs to treat it. Because the illness came on so ferociously and rapidly — around a week — the hospital gave me a notice of severe illness and told me that Yang Hua might develop a range of other symptoms, including septicemia, hemorrhaging of the digestive tract, or kidney damage."
In a statement, CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said that the government's denial of care is "inhumane" and "inconsistent" with international detainee human rights standards.
"Pastor Yang has repeatedly requested medical treatment, and his lawyers believe his situation to be critical," Thomas said. "We call on the Chinese government to release Yang Hua, to allow him immediate access to adequate medical care, and to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment in detention. We further call on the Chinese authorities to cease all harassment and restrictions on other church members, and to uphold the right to freedom of religion or belief for all."
A petition has been launched on Change.org calling for Yang's release.