Guangdong Rights Lawyer Released

Chinese lawyer had spoken out for other activists and helped villagers fight corruption.

China-Guo-Feixiong-305.gif Guo Feixiong (R) with outspoken rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (L) in Beijing, Jan. 6, 2006.

Chinese authorities in Guangdong province on Tuesday released a prominent rights lawyer at the end of a five-year prison term, relatives said.

"My health ... it's OK, I guess," Guo Feixiong told RFA shortly after arriving home from prison with his sister, Yang Maoping. "I need to rest up the next couple of days."

He declined to answer questions about his treatment in prison, but said: "I haven't changed. I am not going to get weaker because of the ordeals of the past five years."

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.

He said 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.

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.

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.

"We are all getting ready for his return home, buying him all the necessities of life, including a stove, bowls and chopsticks, a bed and bedding, and some basic clothing," Yang said in an earlier interview on Monday.

She said the police have so far left the family alone. "We are free to move around," Yang said.

Nationwide crackdown

Since online calls for a "Jasmine" revolution inspired by uprisings in the Middle East sparked a nationwide crackdown on dissidents earlier this year, many prominent activists have been confined to their homes along with their families, even after the formal end of their sentences.

Guo's wife Zhang Qing and the couple's two children arrived in the United States in April 2009, and were granted political asylum later that year.

Zhang said on Tuesday that she had spoken briefly to her husband since his homecoming. "We have waited so long, and he has finally returned," she said.

But she added: "We just said a few words. He wanted to spend longer talking to the kids."

Zhang had said earlier that she and her children, Xixi and Jinbao, had been persecuted by the Chinese government because of her husband’s civil rights work, and that one child had been prevented from attending school normally.

In mid-2005, Guo was beaten by Guangdong police after representing villagers seeking to remove their local Communist Party head, whom they accused of corruption in a lucrative property transaction.

Guo was incarcerated for 3-1/2 months but eventually exonerated and released, then 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 he published an article exposing official corruption in the northeastern city of Shenyang.

Zhang had described extensive torture of her husband at the hands of the authorities during his incarceration.

Reported by Zhang Min and Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service and by Grace Kei Lai-see and Fung Yat-yiu for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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