Chinese court jails veteran activist Guo Feixiong for eight years


Guo’s sentence for ‘subversion’ is linked to a website he set up calling for constitutional democracy

Chinese court jails veteran activist Guo Feixiong for eight years

Guo Feixiong, also known as Yang Maodong, sits in a detention center in Guangzhou in southern China’s Guangdong province in 2014.

Chinese authorities have handed down an eight-year jail term to a veteran rights activist after he set up a website calling for constitutional democracy, his sister said on Thursday.

The Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Yang Maodong, better known by his pen name Guo Feixiong, to eight years’ imprisonment after finding him guilty of “incitement to subvert state power,” his sister Yang Maoping said.

The court said Guo, 56, had set up a website titled the “World Forum for Constitutional Democracy” in 2020, where he had published and reposted “inflammatory articles,” she said.

“He was sentenced to eight years,” Yang said. “This is a shameless act.”

“Why does the fact that people complain to higher ups about injustice or present their demands amount to ‘inciting subversion’?”

Yang said her brother was “framed” by the authorities because he called publicly on China’s then-Premier Li Keqiang to ask for the return of his confiscated passport after his U.S.-based wife Zhang Qing fell terminally ill with cancer.

Guo never got to be with Zhang before her death, and was instead detained again in December 2021, Yang said.

He then went on a months-long hunger strike in detention out of protest at his treatment by police, who tricked Guo into making a “confession” by promising he would be allowed to go to the U.S. to visit Zhang, who died in January 2022, according to Yang’s account at the time.

Like a ‘death sentence’

Fellow rights activist Zhu Chengzhi said the lengthy jail term handed down to Guo was tantamount to a “death sentence,” given the deterioration in his health caused by the hunger strike.

“The authorities have handed him a death sentence,” Zhu said. “His hunger strike has caused huge damage to his health.”

“I fear that Guo Feixiong may not last until the day of his release.”

Guo, whose birth name is Yang Maodong, was previously 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 2013.

His latest sentence comes amid growing concerns over the health and safety of veteran rights lawyer Yu Wensheng and his wife Xu Yan, who have been incommunicado for nearly a month.

Yu and Xu were detained last month on suspicion of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” en route to a meeting with European Union officials in Beijing, prompting calls for their release from Brussels.

Close surveillance

A rights activist who gave the pseudonym Chen Long for fear of reprisals said the couple’s apartment remains under close surveillance, with security personnel preventing fellow activists from visiting their 18 year-old son.

“A lawyer tried to visit Yu Wensheng’s son, but there were two women from the sub-district committee office watching the door,” Chen said. “They are reporting anyone trying to visit to the state security police, who will then come straight away.”

“There is really very little news about Yu Wensheng and his wife, because no lawyer has been able to meet with them and find out about their current situation,” he said. “Their son is alone and isolated.”

U.S.-based rights lawyer Wang Qingpeng said Yu and Xu’s detention could be linked to Yu’s support for jailed rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi and political activist Xu Zhiyong.

“None of the actions of Ding Jiaxi and Xu Zhiyong broke Chinese law or international laws, but they were still given harsh sentences, so I really can’t imagine how they will deal with Yu Wensheng and Xu Yan,” Wang said.

He said rights lawyers and their families have been constantly harassed since a nationwide crackdown on the profession launched in July 2015.

“We have seen Wang Quanzhang and Li Heping constantly being forced to relocate, tracked and threatened by state security police in Beijing,” he said. “Their children have grown up in an environment where they are intimidated and threatened.”

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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