Prisoner miscarries

A recent report describing the inhumane treatment of prisoners in Chinese prisons in Tibet has been received. The report recounts the case of a pregnant woman who was arrested on suspicion of independence activities and subjected to intensive interrogations. The woman’s pleas that she felt weak were ignored and two days later, denied recommended hospital care, she miscarried her child.

At the time of arrest in June 1993 the woman (name withheld) was 3 months and 17 days pregnant. The night of her arrest she was reportedly kept standing in a cold room while being interrogated about her activities. The woman told her interrogators that she was pregnant and was feeling weak, however the pleas were ignored and the questions continued.

When the officials realised that the woman was not going to tell them anything, they finally halted their questions but kept her standing, under guard, until 8.30 a.m. the next day. The interrogation session had begun at 6 p.m. the previous night.

By the next morning the woman had been standing for 14 hours in a row and she was reported to be so stiff that she could scarcely move. When a policewoman offered her some boiled water and biscuits she could not eat anything and was suffering such incredible pain that she was unable to bend her legs or sit down.

The woman was taken to hospital where doctors said she should be admitted immediately. The prison officials refused the advice and she was returned to the prison. The woman was given some pills but did not take them for fear they would be harmful to her child.

It was reported that the following day, while trying to go to the toilet, the woman was suddenly struck with dizziness and fell unconscious. The woman later said that she had realised before losing consciousness that she had lost her baby.

Following the miscarriage the woman was hospitalised for one week from 12 June 1993. Although still not completely well, she was then taken back to prison where she was once again lectured and interrogated. This time her interrogators reportedly told her that it was her own fault and her problem alone that she had lost her child and that “next time you should think before involving yourself in political activities”.

Despite testifying in court about losing her baby due to the maltreatment of the prison officials and pleading with the prosecutor to speak to the doctor of the hospital who had treated her, the woman was sentenced to three years imprisonment.

The special needs of pregnant women under detention are recognised by the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners which states that “there shall be special accommodation for all necessary pre-natal and post-natal care and treatment” in women’s institutions.

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