HONG KONG—A prominent civil rights lawyer in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has refused food or water for 25 days because he says he has been abused by detention center guards hoping to extract a confession.
Guo Feixiong was detained Sept. 15 on suspicion of "running an illegal business." He is currently held in the Guangzhou No. 1 Detention Center. He wrote to his wife earlier this week to tell her that formal charges were being made against him.
"He said he was chained to a wooden bedframe by investigators at the center for 40 days, in the hope that they'd be able to get a confession out of him," Guo's lawyer Hu Xiao told RFA's Mandarin service.
China sees thousands of grass-roots protests every year, often at alleged official wrongdoing. Activists, petitioners, and the lawyers who help them are often detained, harassed, beaten up, or given jail terms.
This is inhumane and cruel, to tie someone hand and foot to a bed for 40 days.
Hu visited Guo, who is also known as Yang Maodong, Thursday. He told reporter Ding Xiao after the meeting that Guo began his hunger strike only after 40 days of ill-treatment inside the detention center.
"They had special techniques they used that wouldn't leave much obvious damage on his body, but which would have an oppressive effect on him, for example, they beat him on his head where it wouldn't show. They also verbally abused him."
Guo's wife Zhang Qing said she was horrified to hear what had happened to her husband.
"This is inhumane and cruel, to tie someone hand and foot to a bed for 40 days. Most people would be done for in just a few days," she said. "The Communist Party is wonderful, isn't it, to do a thing like that?"
Hu said Guo had been given documents relating to the prosecution of his fellow activist and former colleague, Beijing-based lawyer Gao Zhisheng, in an apparent attempt to extract a confession.
But there was no mention of Gao's case on the official document that pressed formal charges against Guo, Hu said. "I checked this with Guo, and he said they gave him a lot of the documentation from Gao's case, in a lot of detail for him to read."
Gao, a veteran rights lawyer who most upset China's leaders with his defense of members of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement and an open letter denouncing the government, was handed a five-year suspended prison sentence for subversion by the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People's Court on Dec. 12.
His political rights were suspended for one year. He remains under tight surveillance.
The court said the subversion charges were based on Gao's signature on nine articles that were published on the Internet. It also cited the three open letters Gao wrote to President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in which he called for religious freedom and less corruption.
The court's judgement said the articles "defamed the Chinese central government and amounted to agitation aimed at toppling the government."
The decision, and the relatively light sentence, was based on Gao's "spontaneous" confession.
Guangzhou officials gave the documents to Guo apparently in the hope of cutting a similar deal. Zhang said the charges of illegal business practice dating back to his time in the publishing industry didn't stand up.
Gao lost his law license after he criticized the government for its treatment of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement. He also began a rolling hunger strike earlier in the year to protest the ill-treatment of lawyers and rights activists at the hands of police and local government officials.
The protest began in reaction to the beating of Guo by police during the Taishi village electoral dispute of the summer of 2005. Guo was a close associate of Gao, and both lawyers had worked on a number of sensitive cases, including the Taishi village standoff.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Ding Xiao. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.