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Rights defender of controversial cases tortured in prison

[Image: Guo Feixiong]
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Basic Information

Name Guo Feixiong / 郭飞雄
(a.k.a. Yang Maodong / 杨茂东)
Date of Birth August 2, 1966
Criminal Detention September 14, 2006
Formal Arrest September 30, 2006
Charge Illegal Business Activity
Sentence Five years' imprisonment and fine of 40,000 yuan
Current Location Meizhou Prison, Guangdong Province
Anticipated Release September 13, 2011

Overview: Rights Defender of Controversial Cases Tortured in Prison

Guo Feixiong (also known as Yang Maodong) is a Guangzhou-based activist and writer. He also worked as a legal adviser at the Beijing-based Shengzhi Law Office and provided legal assistance on a number of controversial rights defense cases, including helping the villagers of Taishi, Guangdong province, to remove their corrupt village chief in 2005. Immediately following his activities in Taishi, he was detained for three months on "suspicion of disturbing the public order." Guo went on a hunger strike for 59 days during detention.

In November 2005, the Shengzhi Law Office was shut down because its founder, prominent human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, represented Falun Gong practitioners and posted three letters on the Internet criticizing the Chinese government for its repression of the Falun Gong. In February 2006, Guo participated in a hunger strike organized by Gao to protest the government's crackdown on human rights activists. When Gao was detained in August 2006, Guo also provided legal assistance to Gao. Guo was formally arrested in September 2006 on the charge of "illegal business activity" in connection with the 2001 publication of Shenyang Political Earthquake 《沈阳政坛地震》, a book about a political scandal in Shenyang, Liaoning province, that he edited. In November 2007, he was sentenced to five years in prison and fined 40,000 yuan.

According to Guo's wife, Zhang Qing, during his 15-month detention in Guangzhou and Shengyang, Guo was tortured numerous times, including the following episodes:
  • He was interrogated for 13 consecutive days and nights right after his initial detention.

  • He was tied down to a wooden bed for 42 days with his arms and legs shackled.

  • He was hung from the ceiling by his arms and legs while the police electrocuted his genitals with a high voltage baton. Guo attempted suicide the following day.
According to Zhang, Guo's conviction was based on the confession he gave during the torture with electric baton. In December 2007, a month after his conviction, Guo was transferred to the Meizhou Prison, Guangdong province to serve his sentence. Upon arrival at the prison, Guo began a hunger strike to protest his treatment. A few days later, he was severely beaten by a fellow inmate while 200 other inmates watched. The prison authority also threatened to send him to a mental institution. At Meizhou Prison, he went on hunger strike several times. During one of these strikes, in February 2008, he was force-fed a liquid that made him vomit for more than a week and turned his urine red.

Guo is married and has two children. Because of his activities, Guo's family has also become a target of the authorities. Guo's wife, Zhang Qing, lost her job. Guo's son Yang Tiance (杨天策) was denied admission to the local public school, Hua Kang primary school (华康小学), for one year and was finally permitted to enroll in 2008. Guo's daughter, Yang Tianjiao (杨天娇), is still barred from enrolling in the local public middle school, Tianhe No. 47 middle school (天河区47中学).

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Current Status: Ill-treatment and Poor Health

At Meizhou Prison, in addition to beatings and forced feeding, Guo has endured solitary confinement and been deprived of reading materials and monthly family visits. The prison authorities have also intercepted some of his letters to his wife and lawyers. His wife, Zhang Qing, last visited him on August 29, 2008, and reports that Guo's health has not returned to normal and that Guo looked emaciated. She was not allowed to give him the medicine she brought with her.

Human Rights in China received a letter from Zhang Qing, Guo Feixiong's wife, describing the abuse that Guo Feixiong has endured, as well as details about his current situation. An English-language translation of the letter is excerpted below. The full translation and the original Chinese-language text can be found in: Spotlight: Letter to Human Rights in China about Recent Developments with Guo Feixiong.

Recent Developments with Guo Feixiong

By Zhang Qing (Guo Feixiong's wife)

September 2, 2008


[Translation by Human Rights in China]

On August 29, 2008, I visited Guo Feixiong in Meizhou. … Guo Feixiong looked as emaciated as before. On December 28 [2007], we saw Guo Feixiong at Meizhou Prison for the first time. Through the glass partition, I could see that his body was stiff, and he wobbled as he walked to the visitation area. He was pale and his lips were lifeless…

He told us that on his first day at Meizhou Prison—December 13, 2007—the prison [guards] threatened him, and forced him to do physical labor for four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening. … He was not permitted contact with other prisoners, or to read the newspaper or any books from the library. … They also threatened to send him to a mental hospital.

He began his hunger strike on that day and planned to continue it for 100 days. … On the fifth day, [the prison guards] secretly arranged for a prisoner to beat him. … This beating occurred in front of 200 prisoners, who were unable to do anything. It wasn't until [the prisoners] all raised their voices that the beating finally stopped. …

Before February 25 of this year, when Guo Feixiong was still on hunger strike, the prison forced a feeding tube down him. Instead of giving him nutrition, they gave him some sort of fluid which his body could not tolerate. As a result, he vomited for seven or eight days and his urine turned red. When his weight dropped to about 43 kilograms [less than 95 pounds], he was forced to end his hunger strike. After that, his urine changed from red to dark yellow … His health still hasn't returned to normal.

… He asked whether the lawyer had received his appeal commission. I said the lawyer had received it and had been in contact with Meizhou Prison. … Tonight, I called the lawyer from the train station in Meizhou. Mr. Mo [the lawyer] said that he will arrange for visiting papers immediately after the Paralympics and will go to Meizhou Prison to see Guo Feixiong.

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Official Appeals

Independent international experts, the United States government, and the European Parliament have highlighted Guo's case and called for his release.

International Experts
  • On November 30, 2007, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, sent a letter of allegations to the Chinese government concerning Guo Feixiong.[1]

  • On March 6, 2006, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General concerning the situation of human rights defenders, sent a joint letter of allegations to the Chinese government that included Guo's case.[2]

  • On October 19, 2006, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression sent an urgent appeal regarding Guo Feixiong.[3]

U.S Government
  • The U.S. Department of State has included Guo Feixiong's case in its 2005, 2006, and 2007 annual country reports, highlighting such human rights violations as detention with no or severely-delayed notice, degrading conditions in prison, torture, denial of a fair public trial, and repression of freedom of speech.[4] The following statement is excerpted from the 2007 annual report, released in March 2008, the most current report available:

    U.S. Department of State

    Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2007:
    China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)

    March 11, 2008


    In February and March legal advisor and rights activist Guo Feixiong (also known as Yang Maodong) reportedly suffered repeated torture, including electric shocks and being tied to a "tiger bench" for four hours. When on a "tiger bench" the victim reportedly sits on a bench with legs tied stretched out straight on the bench and hands tied behind a vertical back support. Bricks or other hard objects are then pushed under the victim's legs or feet, causing the legs to bend upwards, sometimes until they break. The abuse reportedly drove Guo to attempt suicide. In June [2007] Guo Feixiong's wife reportedly sent an open letter to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak detailing her husband's abuse in prison, which included beatings with electric police batons when Guo refused to make a confession.

  • On June 28, 2008, U.S. Congressmen Christopher Smith and Frank Wolf presented a list of 734 political and religious prisoners that included Guo Feixiong to Li Zhaoxing, former Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the U.S. and current Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress,[5] to demand their immediate release.

European Parliament
  • The EU Parliament passed a resolution in December 2007, calling for the release of Guo Feixiong and other human rights defenders.

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Court and Other Documents

Court Documents Other Documents
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HRIC Advocacy and Media Work on Guo Feixiong

Below is a listing of HRIC's advocacy and media work on Guo Feixiong, including press release, statements, and case updates. To subscribe to HRIC's press list, please e-mail communications@hrichina.org with "SUBSCRIBE" as the subject heading.

Updated News Articles

The Human Rights in China (HRIC) Daily News Brief is a daily compilation of selected human rights-related news covered in local and regional Chinese and English press compiled by HRIC's research office. Visit the Daily News Brief for recent news articles on Guo Feixiong.

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[1] United Nations Human Rights Council, "Report submitted by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders," U.N. Doc. A/HRC/7/28/Add.1 (2008) (Special Representative, Hina Jilani), para 413, http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/7/28/Add.1.

[2] United Nations Human Rights Council, "Report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers," U.N. Doc. A/HRC/4/25/Add.1 (2007) (Special Rapporteur, Leandro Despouy), para 77, http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/4/25/Add.1.

[3] United Nations Human Rights Council, "Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 Entitled 'Human Rights Council' Civil and Political Rights, Including the Question of Freedom of Expression," U.N. Doc. A/HRC/4/27/Add.1 (2007) (Special Rapporteur, Amebyi Ligabo), para 134, http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/4/27/Add.1.

[4] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2005: China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau), March 8, 2006, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61605.htm; U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2006: China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau), March 6, 2007, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78771.htm; U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2007: China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau), March 11, 2008, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100518.htm.

[5] "Smith in China on Major Human Rights Appeal in Run-up to Olympics," Chris Smith, July 1, 2008, http://chrissmith.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=96117.

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