Calls are growing for the Chinese authorities to grant medical parole to jailed rights activist Guo Feixiong following a recent visit by a relative to the prison where he is serving a six-year sentence for public order offenses.
Guo, also known by his birth name Yang Maodong, received a visit from his sister Yang Maoping in Yangchun Prison in southern China’s Guangdong Province on Tuesday.
He was sentenced last November for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble" and "gathering a crowd to disrupt social order" after a prolonged period in pretrial detention where he was held alone in a closet-size cell and denied access to the exercise yard for nearly two years.
Guo's sister Yang Maoping told RFA her brother was "not looking normal" when she visited him on Tuesday, and that he had recently suffered a hemorrhage.
"Since his arrival at the prison, he has also had occasional bleeding from the mouth and throat," Yang said.
"He hemorrhaged on April 19, and he has been unsteady on his feet," she said, adding that Guo was pale, thin, and had bloody diarrhea on and off for the past year.
Yang said she had pleaded with prison authorities to transfer him to hospital, as the prison is only able to offer primary care facilities, but to no avail.
Guo himself had also requested further medical checks, but prison guards had said "there is nothing we can do," Yang said.
"They kept stalling when I tried to talk to them, saying that [Guo] hadn't said anything to them, and then they kept talking about him, saying he was uncooperative," she said.
Calls to the Guangdong provincial government's prison management bureau rang unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.
The New York-based group Human Rights in China (HRIC) issued an urgent call for action in Guo's case on Tuesday, calling on volunteers to call the prison directly and enquire about his medical treatment.
"Guo has suffered serious abuses while in detention," HRIC said in a statement on its website. "HRIC calls on the international community to press for immediate medical attention for Guo."
"Guo’s supporters urge those concerned to send their support to Guo Feixiong, and to contact the prison authorities to request ... medical parole," it said.
Guo, who turns 50 this year, shouted in protest at his treatment while in police custody, where he was held in solitary confinement in a dark cell and denied permission to exercise outdoors since August 2013, a situation his wife has said is a form of torture.
Guo stood trial alongside fellow activist Sun Desheng at Guangzhou's Intermediate People's Court on Nov. 28, 2014, at which he was accused of taking part in anti-censorship demonstrations outside the cutting-edge Southern Weekend newspaper offices in Guangzhou in early 2013, where he held up a placard and made a speech in favor of press freedom.
Face-off with authorities
In January 2013, activists, journalists and academics faced off with the authorities after the Southern Weekend newspaper was forced to change a New Year’s editorial calling for political reform into a tribute praising Communist Party rule.
Guo's placards called on officials to publicly disclose their assets and for the Chinese government to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it signed in 1998.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused the Chinese authorities of showing "cruel disregard" for the health of prisoners of conscience, citing the deaths in custody of rights activist Cao Shunli and popular Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.
Beijing-based rights activist Xiang Li said she is concerned that Guo could turn into "a second Cao Shunli."
"Guo Feixiong, regardless of whether he has committed a crime, should be treated humanely, because he is a human being," Xiang said. "We don't want to see another Cao Shunli."
"The authorities dragged their feet for more than six months after her lawyer Wang Yu requested she be sent to seek medical treatment outside, and Cao died in the detention center," Xiang said. "We don't want Guo Feixiong to become another example of such treatment."
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.