The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention on the following situation in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the very concerning health condition and allegations of torture and ill-treatment of human rights defender Mr. Yang Maodong, more commonly known by his pen-name Guo Feixiong.
According to the information received, Guo Feixiong’s health is in critical condition after 86 days on hunger strike, as he continues to be subjected to torture and ill-treatment at the hands of prison officials at Yangchun Prison. Despite numerous requests by Guo Feixiong, his family and lawyers, the authorities refuse to transfer him from the prison where he is being ill-treated to another facility where he can receive appropriate medical treatment.
On July 28, 2016, Guo Feixiong’s lawyers Mr. Zhang Lei and Mr. Li Jinxing were allowed to meet with him for about 40 minutes. His lawyers expressed grave concern for his health, noting he is extremely frail. Their conversation was closely monitored by prison guards, but Guo Feixiong was able to communicate to them about his ongoing ill-treatment in prison.
Previously, on July 21, 2016, Guo Feixiong’s sister was also allowed to speak with him, after having been repeatedly denied visitation rights since June 2016 (see background information). During this visit, Guo Feixiong and his sister were taken to a visitation room away from other inmates and again under strict supervision by prison guards. They were separated by a soundproof wall and window, and were allowed to speak via telephones. Their conversation was censored by the prison guards, who aggressively cut off the phones and silenced Guo Feixiong when he uttered the words “ill-treatment by the prison”.
While talking to his sister, Guo Feixiong reiterated his request for a transfer to another prison, and that he would continue his hunger strike until this demand had been met. He also informed her that prison officials had taken away all his books, and instructed inmates to harass and insult him, including shaking his bed to prevent him from sleeping and harassing him when he uses the restroom. According to his sister, Guo Feixiong’s health appeared very critical. His face was ashen and gaunt, he had trouble walking, and he appeared to have lost even more weight since June, when he weighted 52 kg. He was also visibly emotionally distraught and seemed out of character and very tense.
Prison officials have in the past repeatedly attempted to stop Guo Feixiong from sharing information on his detention and the treatment he is subjected to in prison. On May 7, 2016 a meeting between Guo Feixiong and his lawyers was abruptly ended after only one minute after Guo Feixiong mentioned the use of electric shocks on inmates as a common means of punishment. Moreover, letters written by Guo Feixiong over the past few months addressed to Mr. Li Jingyan, Director of the Guangdon Prison Administration Bureau, and to the Director of the Yangchun prison informing them of his ill-treatment have apparently not been delivered. Guo Feixiong’s lawyers and family have also repeatedly brought up the allegations of torture and ill-treatment of Guo Feixiong to prison officials and the Director of the Guangdon Prison Administration Bureau, but the latter have refused to investigate these complaints. They have either accused Guo Feixiong of lying, or insisted that his treatment is normal since “such punishments are permitted by the prisoners’ code”  when guards deem that inmates are being disobedient.
The Observatory is deeply concerned about the allegations of ongoing torture and ill-treatment of Guo Feixiong in detention, as well as about his current critical health condition. His situation is especially worrying given the fact that there are renown cases of critics of the government dying in police custody after having been denied medical care by prison authorities .
The Observatory calls upon the Chinese authorities to immediately provide Guo Feixiong with appropriate medical treatment and to fully investigate the allegations of torture and ill-treatment by the prison authorities against him.
The Observatory also strongly condemns the judicial harassment and ongoing arbitrary detention of Guo Feixiong, which seem aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights work, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release and for dropping all charges against him.
Guo Feixiong has continuously been subjected to extreme judicial harassment and arbitrary detention since 2005 .
In November 2007 he was sentenced to five years in prison and fined RMB 40,000 for “illegal business activity” in connection with his 2001 publication of a book about a political scandal in Shenyang, Liaoning Province. Guo Feixiong was released in September 2011, but has since been subjected to heavy surveillance and regular questioning about his activities .
On August 8, 2013 he was re-arrested on charges of “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place” after he was spotted at a public protest in January 2013, in support of a Guangzhou newspaper that was battling government censorship at the time. Guo Feixiong was subsequently placed in police custody, and was denied access to legal counsel until November 14, 2013, after eight failed attempts made by lawyers to visit him.
On June 24, 2014, after ten months in police custody, Guo Feixiong was formally charged with “gathering crowds to disrupt public order”. Because they had been denied access to Guo Feixiong’s case file, his lawyers boycotted his initial hearing scheduled for September 12, 2014, which resulted in a postponement. On November 27, 2015, Guo Feixiong was finally sentenced to six years in prison by the Tianhe District People’s Court in Guangzhou on charges of “gathering crowds to disrupt social order” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. The latter charge was added by the judge at the time of sentencing.
Guo Feixiong was then transferred to Yangchun Prison in late 2015 to serve out his sentence, where he has since been subject to multiple degrading acts and ill-treatment. For example, on May 9, 2016, prison officials video-recorded Guo Feixiong undergoing a humiliating medical examination against his will, and threatened to upload the video online. This prompted Guo Feixiong to declare a hunger strike the same day to protest against the continuous harassment and ill-treatment he has suffered while in detention. His weight subsequently dropped from 75 kg to 52 kg in one month.
According to the director of the prison hospital at Yangchun, Guo Feixiong has been force-fed twice every other day since May 14, 2016 and is being given intravenous supplements every other day against his will. Previous reports of force feeding in prisons in China have indicated that prisoners are tied to a bed while tubes are forcibly inserted into their nose, resulting in injuries to their nose, mouth, and stomach and subsequent bleeding, which could be fatal considering Guo Feixiong’s already fragile health condition.
In June 2016 Guo Feixiong had also informed his family that he was suffering from internal bleeding and continued bleeding in his mouth and throat that had begun when he was first transferred to Yangchun Prison, but was still being denied access to proper medical treatment. In view of this, Guo Feixiong’s family requested that he be transferred to a facility where he can receive medical treatment, but the authorities reportedly responded that he would only be moved to a hospital “in the event that he loses consciousness”.
On June 11, 2016, Guo Feixiong’s sister attempted to visit him, but prison officials refused the visit and only allowed her to exchange written notes with him. In these notes, Guo wrote that he would not stop his hunger strike because his demands had not been met and the prison authorities were continuing to subject him to humiliation and ill-treatment.
On the same day, his sister was also informed by prison officials that she could only visit her brother once a month. She therefore went to Yangshun Prison on July 12, 2016 but was again denied the right to visit with her brother.
Please write to the authorities in the People’s Republic of China, urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Guo Feixiong, including by providing him with adequate medical treatment, as well as of all human rights defenders in the People’s Republic of China;
ii. Release Guo Feixiong immediately and unconditionally since his detention is arbitrary, and drop all charges against him;
iii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment against Guo Feixiong, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;
iv. Put an end to the harassment - including at the judicial level - against Guo Feixiong, as well as against all human rights defenders in the People’s Republic of China;
v. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Articles 1 and 12.2;
vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the People’s Republic of China.
• Mr. LI Keqiang, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China, Guojia Zongli, The State Council General Office, 2 Fuyoujie, Xichengqu, Beijingshi 100017, People’s Republic of China, Fax: +86 10 65961109 (c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
• Ms. WU Aiying, Minister of Justice of the People’s Republic of China, Buzhang Sifabu, 10 Chaoyangmen Nandajie, Chaoyangqu, Beijingshi 100020, People’s Republic of China, Fax: +86 10 6529 2345, firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
• Mr. WANG Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, Buzhang Waijiaobu, 2 Chaoyangmen Nandajie, Beijingshi 100701, People’s Republic of China, Fax: +86 10 6588 2594, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
• Mr. GUO Shengkun, Minister of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China, Buzhang, Gong’anbu, 14 Dongchang’anjie, Dongchengqu, Beijingshi 100741, People’s Republic of China, Fax: +86 10 63099216
• H.E. Mr. WU Hailong, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China, Chemin de Surville 11, P.O. Box 85, 1213 Petit-Lancy 2, Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 7937014, E-mail: email@example.com
• Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Brussels, Avenue de Tervuren, 1150 Woluwe Saint-Pierre, Belgium,Tel: +32-2-7711497, 7711495; Fax: +32-2-7792895; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of the People’s Republic of China in your respective country.