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Sun Xiaodi Harassed, Faces Financial Hardship

March 27, 2007

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that rights activist Sun Xiaodi has gone to Beijing for treatment of a life-threatening tumor, while he and his family continue to be seriously harassed and face financial hardship.

Sun Xiaodi has spent more than a decade petitioning the central authorities over radioactive contamination from the No. 792 Uranium Mine in the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province, and illegal mining allegedly carried out by local officials. For those efforts, Sun Xiaodi was presented with the prestigious Nuclear-Free Future Award in Window Rock, Arizona, where HRIC presented his acceptance message.

Residents of the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture where Sun Xiaodi lives suffer an unusually high rate of cancer and other health conditions associated with radioactive contamination. In November 2006, a medical examination revealed a tumor in Sun's abdominal cavity. Because local medical facilities could not provide adequate care, Sun put in a request with local public security officials for permission to go to Beijing for further diagnosis and treatment, but for months received no reply. At the end of February 2007, with his condition worsening, Sun and his daughter, Sun Haiyan, traveled to Beijing, where Sun consulted a specialist who recommended surgery costing 120,000 yuan (approximately $15,000). Sun barely has enough money to support himself and his daughter in Beijing, much less meet the costs of the surgery. Friends are currently attempting to raise the funds necessary to meet Sun's medical expenses.

Since he was presented with the Nuclear-Free Future Award, official harassment of Sun has intensified, including constant surveillance, water supply shut-offs and vandalism to his home. Since Sun and his daughter departed for Beijing, his wife has continued to receive threats and harassment from unknown individuals. Sun's family believes those individuals were hired by local officials, who fear that Sun has actually gone to Beijing to report further on abuses at the No. 792 Uranium Mine. Sources say that on March 26 Sun Haiyan telephoned a local official to report the harassment and request protection for her mother.

HRIC condemns the harassment of environmental activist Sun Xiaodi and his family, and the failure of local authorities to protect them. HRIC urges the central government to protect Sun's right to petition and access to necessary medical treatment. HRIC also calls on the international community to send a strong message of concern to the Chinese authorities in support of rights defenders such as Sun who are working in extremely difficult and dangerous conditions.