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China worsening abuse of dissident, group says

Abuses suffered by uncompromising democracy campaigner Wei Jingsheng at the hands of his Chinese jailers have worsened, and his health has deteriorated, a human rights group said Thursday.

Prison officials have ordered inmates to watch Wei 24 hours a day. A glass wall has been erected on one side of his cell to aid their surveillance, making him feel like a zoo animal. And Wei must ask to be taken to the bathroom, a task the prisoners often refuse, New York-based Human Rights in China reported.Adding to his chronic high blood pressure and heart and stomach ail-ments - a legacy of nearly two decades of imprisonment - Wei now has a ring of reddish, purplish bumps on his waist. A pinched nerve in his neck causes him to bend his chin to his chest, and he can only raise his arms with pain, the group said.

Word of Wei's condition comes days before Chinese President Jiang Zemin heads to Washington for the first state visit by a Chinese leader in 12 years. His summit with President Clinton on Wednesday has been billed as their most far-reaching meeting yet.

China's Foreign Ministry dismissed the report of Wei's worsened health as "a sort of rumor because it has been going around for years."

Human Rights in China, he said, "either doesn't understand his basic situation or has ulterior motives."