Chinese Political Prisoner Dies Amid Suspicion of Torture, Mistreatment

Guo Hongwei's family warned as early as 2019 that he was likely to be 'bullied to death' in prison.
Chinese Political Prisoner Dies Amid Suspicion of Torture, Mistreatment Guo Hongwei's family stands outside of the hospital where he was treated for a a brain hemorrhage in Jilin's Siping city, in an undated photo.

A Chinese political prisoner jailed after he publicly supported the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong has died at the age of 48, despite warnings from his family that mistreatment and possible torture at the hands of the prison authorities and police could kill him.

Guo Hongwei, who was serving a 13-year jail term in China's northeastern province of Jilin, was rushed to hospital with a brain hemorrhage after his family repeatedly warned that his high blood pressure had been left unmedicated, Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper reported on Monday.

A person familiar with the matter told RFA last week that Guo had been tortured.

"Guo Hongwei was tortured by the authorities over a long period during his stay in Songyuan Prison," the person said.

"He was kept in a cell that was two meters (6.5 feet) square; a small, dark room with no toilet, no light and no ventilation," they said.

"He already had high blood pressure when he went in, so his chances of surviving such an environment weren't good."

The person said surgeons had removed a "large piece of bone" from Guo's artery, that had been blocking the supply of blood to the brain.

Guo was jailed by a court in Jilin's Siping city in 2016 for "extortion" and "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," a charge frequently used to target peaceful critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

His family has vowed to uncover the truth, after Guo was rushed to the hospital in early April, undergoing two surgeries before becoming comatose.

His father Guo Yinqi told RFA on April 6, after Guo Hongwei had fallen ill, but before he died, that it would require a "miracle" for him to live.

"Guo Hongwei is totally emaciated, to the point that there is little to separate his ribs and spine," Guo Yinqi said. "He is unable to breathe on his own, and is dependent on a ventilator."

"His vital signs are very weak, yet we are hoping for a miracle."

Blood pressure complications

Guo Hongwei's brother Guo Hongqiang said Guo had been able to hold a normal conversation on the phone two months ago, but was unable to speak by April 4.

"His blood pressure was pretty high," Guo Hongqiang said. "I wonder about what they did to him in prison."

"We don't know. I am guessing that something happened to trigger this."

A source close to Guo Hongwei's family told RFA in December 2019 that his blood pressure was around 240-250 systolic over 160-170 diastolic, and that he was offered no alternative to the medication on offer in the prison clinic, to which he was allergic.

Guo's father also said at that time that Guo Hongwei was being held in solitary confinement in a small space, and kept on inadequate rations of food and water, while the source said that his wheelchair had been deliberately destroyed and his glasses smashed.

Guo Yinqi said he believed the authorities were trying to get him to "confess" to the charges against him, and would likely "bully him to death" if he didn't.

Earlier jailing

A former power plant worker from Jilin's Songjianghe township, Guo Hongwei was subjected to physical attacks that left him unable to walk after he turned petitioner following a lost lawsuit.

He was initially jailed in 2005 after lodging an official complaint against several local officials for embezzlement, with the same charges brought against him instead.

After his release, he staged a public rally in support of the Occupy Central pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, after which he was detained again in March 2015, then convicted in 2016.

Guo Hongwei's mother Xiao Yunling was imprisoned at the same time as her son and released early at the end of 2019.

His sister Guo Hongying was also handed a five-and-a-half year jail term for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," and "obstructing officials in the course of their duty."

Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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