Chinese activist begs premier to lift travel ban to see ailing wife

Guo Feixiong writes to Li Keqiang as his wife Zhang Qing is under palliative care for metastatic bowel cancer.
By Wang Yun
2021.11.30
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Chinese activist begs premier to lift travel ban to see ailing wife Guo Feixiong is shown after being released from Yingde prison in Guangdong province, Aug. 7, 2019.
Photo: Guo Feixiong

A prominent Chinese rights activist has written to premier Li Keqiang urging him to lift a travel ban and allow him to visit his wife, who is terminally ill with cancer, in the United States.

Guo Feixiong, who has been apart from his wife Zhang Qing since she brought the couple's two children to the U.S. in 2006, wrote Li in an open letter that Zhang's bowel cancer had now spread throughout her body, and that she is now undergoing palliative care in Maryland.

Guo, whose birth name is Yang Maodong, said he has been told by police in his hometown of Guangzhou that his application for approval to visit her in the U.S. is being held up by the ministry of public security in Beijing, not by local police.

"For the second time, for some reason, the ministry has yet to give final approval for my second application to go overseas," he wrote.

"Premier Li Keqiang, I implore you to interrogate the officials at the ministry for public security responsible for this and urge them to ... give their approval as soon as possible, so I can travel to the U.S. and be with my wife, and perhaps save her life," Guo said.

"Any help would be greatly appreciated," the letter, dated Nov. 29 and signed Yang Maodong, said.

Guo's appeal came days after a similar appeal by Zhang Qing, who was granted political asylum in the U.S. along with the couple's children in 2009.

Zhang's letter to Guo called on him to "come quickly," as she fears her life is nearing its end.

"My life is coming to an end, and I am almost in despair," she wrote. "When can I see my husband?"

Addressing Guo, she wrote: "You are my last hope. I am waiting for you. When will you come?"

Zhang's friend Yang Zili said the lack of support from Guo would likely have a compounding effect on her health.

"This situation has definitely had an impact on the effectiveness of treatment, because the chemotherapy didn't get the cancer under control," Yang told RFA after visiting Zhang in hospital last week.

"They have been separated for 15 years, suffering through missing each other and cancer, and her husband's inability to leave [China] will have had a huge psychological impact on her," Yang said.

Jailed for six years

Guo was jailed for six years by the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court on Nov. 28, 2014, after prosecutors added a new charge at the last minute that effectively forced him to serve the whole of his jail term without counting time already served.

According to the indictment at the trial, the initial charge against Guo was based on his participation 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.

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.

Guo began a hunger strike in prison in 2016 after being subjected to a forced rectal cavity search at the instigation of state security police, as well as forced head shaving and verbal abuse from prison guards, rights groups have said.

He was later transferred from Guangdong's Yangchun Prison to Yingde Prison after refusing food and water for more than 100 days in protest at his treatment.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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