Lawyer Told 'Go To America'

A Chinese rights attorney is forced to return to his hometown after seeking to meet with friends in Beijing.

2012-08-03
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Guo Feixiong (R) with outspoken rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (L) in Beijing, Jan. 6, 2006.
AFP

Updated at 1:30 p.m. EST on 2012-08-03

Authorities in the Chinese capital detained a prominent rights lawyer from the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou while he was on a trip to visit friends and fellow activists in Beijing, sending him back to his hometown.

Guo Feixiong, who was released from jail in September 2011 following a five-year jail term, had previously been subjected to extrajudicial detention and torture, and his detention on Thursday sparked further fears for his safety.

Guo reported via the popular microblogging service Sina Weibo that he had arrived back in Guangzhou in the early hours of Friday morning, only to be subjected to a further four hours of questioning by police from his local district.

"I was forced to 'have a chat' with police from my local Linhe W. Road police station for four hours," Guo wrote on his Weibo account.

"They kept saying to me that if I was so keen to promote democracy, why didn't I go and promote it in America."

Later, Guo said he was held for 13 hours in total, with no formal documentation produced, and forced to return to Guangzhou. He said police confiscated his computer and mobile phone.

"I was taken away forcibly by police officers from the Taipingzhuang police station at about 9:50 a.m.," he said. "I demanded that they issue formal documents but they said ... we should first go to the police station."

"When we got to the police station they handed me over to the Beijing municipal state security police ... They didn't show any identification, nor did they issue any documents, either."

"Then they handed me over to the Guangzhou municipal state security who had arrived the previous day, and they took me on the plane ... back to Guangzhou." Guo said.

Guo wrote on Sina Weibo that he is planning to move his home base to Beijing, and live there for an extended period, working, traveling, and meeting friends.

"This is my right under the Constitution," he said.

Immediately detained

The lawyer had been staying at the house of friend and fellow activist Hu Shigen in Beijing when he was taken away, according to Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia.

"Feixiong has already been subjected to kidnapping and illegal detention during his rights work seven years ago, and has come to expect it," Hu said in an interview recorded before Guo's tweet appeared. "In mainland China, there's no guarantee of personal safety."

Hu said the authorities had probably been watching Guo since his arrival.

"Feixiong got in touch with a lot of friends after he got to Beijing, and there were definitely some phone communications," Hu said. "The Guangzhou and Beijing state security police know him very well, and they will definitely have been tapping his phone."

"He was detained the moment he showed his face."

Guo, whose wife and two children were granted political asylum in the United States in 2009, rose to prominence during a 2005 campaign by the people of Guangdong's Taishi village to recall their elected chief amid allegations of corruption.

Guo was sentenced to five years' imprisonment in 2006 by a Guangdong court for "illegal business practices" after repeated beatings and detentions did little to deter his rights campaigns.

He has said previously that he has no plans to join his family, however.

"I won't leave my own country, my mother tongue, and the place of my birth," he said in an interview shortly after his release from prison.

China has a track record of arranging for prominent dissidents to go overseas for "medical parole." Once there, their influence is limited, and they are rarely allowed to return.

Chinese authorities detained or placed under house arrest more than 60 dissidents in July, according to a Hubei-based rights group.

The China Human Rights Observer said in a report that it had received 61 reports of detentions, enforced "holidays," and other forms of surveillance, as well as labor camp sentences.

It said the crackdown would likely intensify in the run-up to the 18th Congress of the ruling Communist Party later this year.

Reported by Zhang Min for RFA's Mandarin service and Fung Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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