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Fears grow for Guo Feixiong, on hunger strike in a Guangzhou detention center

Fears are growing over the health of Chinese dissident and former legal advocate Guo Feixiong, also known as Yang Maodong, who has been on hunger strike for several months while in detention.

Guo has been detained and held incommunicado since writing an open letter to Chinese premier Li Keqiang, asking him to lift a travel ban and allow him to visit his critically ill wife Zhang Qing in the United States.

His sister Yang Maoping told RFA that Guo now weighs less than 50 kilograms (110 pounds), citing a July 6 video call between Guo, who is being held in the police-run Guangzhou No. 1 Detention Center, and his defense attorney.

Yang said her brother began refusing food shortly after being detained, and is only still alive due to force-feeding by the prison guards.

“The lawyer told me that Yang Maodong has been on hunger strike since Dec. 5, 2021, and that they have been tube-feeding him, although his weight has dropped rapidly to around 100 pounds,” she said.

“If he continues to lose weight, his life will be in danger,” she said. “He has two children, and one of them is still a minor.”

“I am very sad and don’t know what to do … I don’t want his kids to be orphans,” Yang said.

She said the state security police had tricked Guo into making a “confession” by promising he would be allowed to go to the U.S. to visit his then terminally-ill wife Zhang Qing, who died in January.

‘Ridiculous accusation’

Instead, when he confessed, they charged him with “incitement to subvert state power,” Yang said.

“It’s a ridiculous accusation,” she said. “Who is he supposed to be subverting? Can he do it all alone?”

“I kept writing letters to everyone in our country who could help him go abroad and see his dying wife,” Yang said. “I even told them I was willing to be a hostage, but Zhang Qing died without seeing him.”

An employee who answered the phone at the Guangzhou No. 1 Detention Center appeared to confirm the news of Guo’s hunger strike.

“His going on hunger strike was his personal choice, but we are also carrying out ideological work with  him,” the employee said. “As for the next step, his lawyer should also [try to influence him], right?”

Zhang Lun, a professor at the University of Sergi-Pondoise in France who has been a vocal advocate for Guo internationally said he is very worried about Guo’s health, given that his health was already poor after serving so many years in jail already.

Zhang said activists had appealed to U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet to visit Guo Feixiong during her visit to Guangzhou in May, but to no avail.

“Naturally, I am very worried,” Zhang said. “Mr. Guo Feixiong has been in prison several times before, to the great detriment of his health.”

“I think the Commissioner has the responsibility to express her concern to the Chinese authorities,” he said. “The United Nations High Commissioner must make a statement on this matter.”

‘The inhumanity of this tyranny’

U.K.-based scholar Wang Jianhong said the treatment of Guo and his family was tyrannical.

“Even when Guo Feixiong’s wife Zhang Qing fell ill, the authorities still refused to allow him to leave the country and arrested him, instead,” Wang said. “The tragic experience of this family shows us the inhumanity of this tyranny [regime].”

Wang said an international campaign over jailed Shanghai citizen journalist Zhang Zhan’s hunger strike had led to a partial improvement in her health following her hunger strike.

“We have not achieved our goal of medical parole, but we learned in mid-February that Zhang Zhan’s situation in prison had improved, so we should speak out for Guo Feixiong today,” he said.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement on Zhang Qing’s death on Jan. 10, 2022 that the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had subjected Guo to “years of mistreatment, imprisonment, routine harassment and surveillance.”

“We call on [China] to immediately grant Guo humanitarian relief and allow his travel to the United States to be reunited with his children and grieve the passing of his wife,” the statement said.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.