Jailed Chinese Activist Guo Feixiong Wins International Rights Award

Guo Feixiong in a file photo.
Photo courtesy of Guo Feixiong

The wife of jailed Chinese rights lawyer Yang Maodong, better known by his pseudonym Guo Feixiong, received an award from an international human rights body in a ceremony in the Irish capital on Friday.

Guo has been held in the Tianhe detention center in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou for more than 750 days, and is awaiting sentencing on charges of "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order" following a trial at Guangzhou's Tianhe District People's Court on Nov. 28.

Guo and fellow activist Sun Sihuo, better known as Sun Desheng, have been held in police detention since 2013, after taking part in street protests for press freedom and calling for greater government transparency and protection for human rights.

Guo's wife Zhang Qing and daughter Yang Tianjiao received the 2015 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk in Dublin in his place, the group said in a statement on its website.

"Guo Feixiong has defended farmers illegally evicted from their land, Falun Gong practitioners persecuted for their beliefs and journalists who dared to speak out," award presenter Sebastian Barry told the ceremony.

"He is a symbol of the endurance of the human spirit, of the will to survive and of the human need for the free air of ideas, to make life worth living," he said.

Health at risk

Guo is considered at risk because his "memory, speech, and mental awareness all showed signs of damage," the statement said, citing Guo's lawyers commenting on a recent meeting with their client.

Guo's lawyer Li Jinxing welcomed the award, saying he hoped it would raise awareness of  his client's plight.

"He hasn't been allowed outside for fresh air or exercise since Aug. 8, 2013," Li told RFA on Friday. "He never gets any sunlight, and he looks awful."

Li said Guo is also suffering psychologically from his long incarceration, during which the authorities have repeatedly delayed his trial and subsequent sentencing.

"He's not as lively as he used to be, and he is thin and pale," Li said. "He has managed to hold onto his right to read, but not so much his right to write and receive letters."

Li said Guo's treatment at the hands of the authorities is unjust.

"It is unjust, and goes against the legal principle that a trial should be expedited as quickly as possible," he said.

He said Guo is also facing unfair charges.

"He is also innocent, so I hope they will release him as soon as possible," Li added.

Prolonged persecution

Rights activists across China have hit out at his treatment, calling his detention "a deliberate effort to harm Guo Feixiong and kill him slowly," it said.

Zhang told the assembled guests that her husband is a "faithful idealist" who has endured prolonged persecution and torture at the hands of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

"Guo Feixiong is a faithful idealist. Although he has experienced a wide range of political persecution ... he shows enduring strength and courage to pursue rights, equality and justice peacefully," Zhang said.

"We are proud of Guo Feixiong and all the other human rights defenders and lawyers working to the same end in China," she said.

Guo's fellow defendant Sun has also reported repeated torture and mistreatment while inside the Tianhe detention center, his lawyers have told RFA.

Guo was chosen from among a shortlist of rights activists who had "made an exceptional contribution to defending the rights of others," including Rasul Jafarov of Azerbaijan, Juan Carlos Flores Solís of Mexico, Yara Sallam of Egypt and Diane Marie Rodríguez Zambrano of Ecuador.

Guo received the award "in recognition of his relentless commitment to investigating, reporting, and fighting against human rights violations in China," the Frontline Defenders, also known as the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, said.

"As a writer, legal activist, and advocate, Guo Feixiong has repeatedly refused to succumb to physical and psychological abuse aimed at stopping his work," the group said.

Guo's sister Yang Maoping said she hadn't heard of his award until contacted by RFA on Friday.

"I am extremely sad [about Guo], and his wife and daughter have suffered so much," Yang said. "They are good and gentle people, and they have been destroyed by this."

"He has been shut up in a cell two meters square for more than two years and never allowed to exercise," she said.

"His health is very poor, and I am extremely concerned, and they won't let me visit him," Yang said. "I only know how he is via his lawyers."

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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