The sister of prominent Chinese political prisoner Guo Feixiong has been denied permission to visit him in hospital following his transfer to another prison and the ending of his 100-day hunger strike, prompting further concerns about his well-being.
Guo, whose birth name is Yang Maodong, is currently in the hospital of Guangdong’s Yingde Prison, where he was taken after requesting a transfer from Yangchun Prison.
He began his hunger strike in early May in protest at the treatment of political prisoners in China, and his lawyers had requested the transfer after a public outcry triggered by his hunger strike.
But when Guo’s sister Yang Maoping, an experienced physician, tried to visit her brother on Monday, she was turned away.
“I am very angry and aggrieved about this,” Yang told RFA on Wednesday. “I was stopped from going any further when I reached the hospital.”
She declined to comment further, however, suggesting that her phone calls are still being monitored by police.
“It’s really not very convenient for me to talk right now,” Yang said.
Hunan-based rights activist Zhu Chengzhi, a close friend and long-time supporter of Guo’s, said his new jail may have barred Yang because of her outspokenness on her brother’s behalf.
“Guo Feixiong’s sister has expressed her opposition [to his treatment] in very public ways, so they could be deliberately making things difficult for her,” Zhu said.
“[She] is also a qualified doctor, and she has spoken out about his medical condition,” he said. “She will be able to verify certain things and she is likely to be more accurate [than the authorities].”
Yang Maoping has raised concerns that Guo may be suffering from gastrointestinal tumors, as he has shown chronic symptoms but was denied more detailed tests while in Yangchun Prison.
Forced vacations for scholars
Guo began his hunger strike on May 9, calling on President Xi Jinping to implement democratic reforms, end the use of electric shocks in prison, improve the treatment of political prisoners, and ratify a United Nations covenant on civil and political rights.
His action was prompted by a forced rectal cavity search at the instigation of state security police, as well as forced head shaving and verbal abuse from prison guards, his sister said at the time.
More than 400 rights activists across China have now ended a relay hunger strike in support of Guo.
Earlier this month, London-based rights group Amnesty International launched a campaign calling for Guo’s immediate release.
The group’s members have also called on the authorities to ensure that Guo’s treatment meets minimum standards laid down by the United Nations for the treatment of prisoners.
They have also called on the government to ensure he has access to ethical healthcare from an appropriately qualified practitioner.
Guo’s continued incarceration comes amid growing concerns at the scale and brutality of China’s nationwide crackdown on rights activists, non-government organizations (NGOs) and human rights lawyers.
On Tuesday, a United Nations-appointed human rights envoy said the Chinese government had interfered with his work during a recent nine-day visit to the country.
Philip Alston, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights said none of the meetings with academics he had requested prior to his arrival had been arranged.
"None of those meetings were arranged, and the message I got from many of the people I contacted was that they had been advised that they should be on vacation at this time,” Alston told reporters at the end of his trip.
"The position that the United Nations has always followed and that I've followed in every other country that I've visited, and there are many, is that the rapporteur is entitled to meet with whomsoever he wants to meet with, that he's entitled to go wherever he wants to," he said.
China's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday denied having restricted Alston’s activities, saying his account “did not accord with the facts.”
Reported by Goh Fung for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Chen Pan and Lin Ping for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.