HONG KONG—The wife and two children of a jailed Chinese rights lawyer have been granted political asylum in the United States.
Zhang Qing, the wife of jailed Chinese rights lawyer Guo Feixiong, and their two children were notified of their status on Nov. 19, she told RFA's Mandarin service in her first interview since arriving in the United States in early April.
Zhang and her children fled their home in Guangzhou in late January and reached Thailand in early February before continuing to the United States.
Zhang said she is relieved to have been granted asylum, adding that she and her children, Xixi and Jinbao, had been persecuted by the Chinese government because of her husband’s civil right work.
“I lost my job. Jinbao missed an entire year of schooling. Xixi’s schooling was also under their control. Our bank account was frozen. Our lives were greatly disrupted. It was under these circumstances that we left China,” Zhang said.
Guo Feixiong is currently serving a five-year jail term for "illegal business activities."
Zhang said that while she now feels safe, she and the children miss Guo and are concerned for his health.
“We have heard a lot of news about him, but it is all bad news. He was beaten. He sustained injuries to his arm. Family members were prohibited from visiting him,” Zhang said.
She said Guo had asked to see his attorney in prison, but that each attempt to meet had been blocked by prison officials.
“We are deeply worried about his well-being,” she said.
In mid-2005, Guo Feixiong was beaten by police in China's southern Guangdong province after representing villagers seeking to remove their local Communist Party head, whom they accused of corruption in a lucrative property transaction.
“[Guo] was involved in the [village chief] recall campaign of Taishi village… He offered legal assistance to the villagers in their attempt to exercise their rights to democratic elections,” Zhang said.
But Zhang said the movement was suppressed by “as many as 1,000 riot police,” leading to Guo’s arrest and the detention of “scores of villagers.”
Guo was incarcerated for 3-1/2 months but eventually exonerated and released.
Zhang said that Guo had refused food and water while in prison to protest his “illegal arrest” and was subject to government harassment after being released.
“He was followed everywhere. He was not allowed to leave his home and was placed under house arrest. His personal freedom was restricted. He endured beatings on three separate occasions,” she said.
Guo was arrested again in September 2006 after becoming involved in a campaign to release fellow rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng.
Authorities charged him with engaging in illegal business activities after publishing an article exposing official corruption in the northeastern city of Shenyang.
Zhang said that while Guo’s case was remanded twice on grounds of insufficient evidence, he was subjected to brutal treatment at the hands of the Guangzhou police.
“For 42 days his hands and feet were tied together to a hardboard bed. Even under such brutality he did not succumb and refused to confess. Without evidence the case could not go on,” she said.
Guo was later transferred to custody in Shenyang, which Zhang called “a place known for its brutal treatment of prisoners.”
“He was hit in the genitals with electric batons” by prison guards there, Zhang said.
“While this wrongful case was being processed he was interrogated 175 times… The police knowingly violated the law. They fabricated the case against him,” she said.
Mistreatment in prison
Zhang said that Guo has been constantly abused while serving his current sentence.
“As soon as he was transferred to the Meizhou prison [in Guangdong province], the prison authorities drew three yellow warning lines in front of his cell. He was not allowed to cross the lines. He was not allowed to have any kind of contact with the other inmates,” Zhang said.
“The prison authorities also ordered him to do labor. He went on a hunger strike to protest,” she said.
Guo began seeking an appeal for his case in early 2008, but Zhang said that the process has been delayed.
She said Guo had not even been allowed to meet with his attorney until November last year.
“According to the law, the lawyer and his client are supposed to meet face-to-face across a table without police presence. They are supposed to be able to speak freely without being monitored or recorded,” she said.
But Zhang said Guo and his lawyer were forced to speak to each other on a phone through a glass window with police listening in and recording their conversation.
“Given the circumstances they were not able to even touch on the core of the problem. So the meeting, which was granted only after almost an entire year’s effort, was a total waste,” she said.
Zhang said a request to meet with his lawyer again this year has been met with “tremendous obstructions.”
Call for rights
Zhang called on Chinese authorities to safeguard Guo’s legal rights.
“I have heard so many times that he has been brutally beaten and that he has sustained injuries—this on top of the torture he had endured before.”
Zhang said inmates’ personal safety should be guaranteed according to China’s prison laws and regulations.
“I call on the prison authorities to fulfill at least this most basic requirement,” she said.
Zhang also called on authorities to grant Guo the right to pursue an appeal and to meet with his lawyer.
“From my first open letter to President Hu Jintao I have been urging the Chinese government to resolve and to re-evaluate this wrongful case in a just way, and to exonerate and free him.” Zhang said.
“I reiterate my plea: Stop persecuting Guo Feixiong and release him,” she said.
“I also call on everyone in China and the international community to express their concern about Guo Feixiong’s case, as well as those against other rights lawyers and dissidents.”
Original reporting by Zhang Min for RFA’s Mandarin service. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated by Jennifer Chou. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.