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Guo Feixiong allowed first meeting with lawyer

Status: 
Arrested
About the situation

On 16 June 2022, human rights defender Guo Feixiong was allowed to meet his lawyer for the first time since he was arrested on 5 December 2021 by police in Guangzhou city. He was denied access to legal counsel on the pretext that he is being accused of “endangering national security”.

On 10 January 2022, human rights defender Guo Feixiong's wife, Zhang Qing, passed away in a hospital in Maryland in the US.

Guo Feixiong has not been heard from since 5 December 2021 when he sent out a message to his close friends stating that he was under police custody.

On 25 November 2021, Zhang Qing, human rights defender Guo Feixiong’s spouse, released a letter addressed to Guo Feixiong revealing that cancer cells have spread all over her body and that her doctors told her she has one or two months left to live. She said she would fight the cancer, but that she needs him by her side as soon as possible.

On 12 January 2022, the Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau in Guangdong province sent a notice to the family of human rights defender and 2015 Front Line Defender Award laureate Guo Feixiong (aka Yang Maodong), informing them that the human rights defender has been formally arrested on suspicion of “inciting subversion of State power” under Article 105(2) of China’s Criminal Law. According to the arrest notice, he is currently being detained at the Guangzhou Municipal No. 1 Detention Centre.

On the evening of 28 January 2021, border control authorities at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport blocked human rights defender and writer Yang Maodong (杨茂东), better known by his pen name Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄), from boarding a flight to the United States to care for his wife Zhang Qing who is seriously ill. The authorities reportedly cited “suspicion of endangering national security” as the basis for imposing an exit ban on the defender.

 

About Guo Feixiong

Guo FeixiongGuo Feixiong is a well known figure in China's rights defence movement and laureate of the 2015 Front Line Defenders Award. He has previously spent 11 years in prison for his human rights activities. His first imprisonment from 2006 and 2011 came after he provided legal assistance and organisational support to residents in Taishi village in Guangdong province who were seeking to remove their village chief whom they accused of corruption, as well as after the publication of a book exposing a political scandal in the northeastern province of Liaoning.

17 June 2022
Guo Feixiong allowed first meeting with lawyer

On 16 June 2022, human rights defender Guo Feixiong was allowed to meet his lawyer for the first time since he was arrested on 5 December 2021 by police in Guangzhou city. He was denied access to legal counsel on the pretext that he is being accused of “endangering national security”.

The defender told his lawyer that the since July 2021, the local authorities pressured him to admit to wrongdoing and confess to “crimes”. After he refused, the authorities used the refusal to deny his travel abroad to care for his critically-ill wife, who eventually died in the US in January 2022.

He has gone on hunger strike since his arrest to convey three demands to the authorities. First, he wants the authorities to set up a special investigative committee to establish the facts surrounding the travel ban imposed on him by the Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau and the Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department, and to seek accountability for this human rights violation.

Second, he is asking the National People’s Congress to initiate a review of the constitutionality of legal provisions that empower authorities to restrict or deny the right to legal counsel in “national security” cases, and to strike down these provisions.

Third, he is calling on the Chinese government to initiate and implement genuine reforms to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

19 January 2022
Human rights defender Guo Feixiong formally arrested for “inciting subversion of State power”

On 12 January 2022, the Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau in Guangdong province sent a notice to the family of human rights defender and 2015 Front Line Defender Award laureate Guo Feixiong (aka Yang Maodong), informing them that the human rights defender has been formally arrested on suspicion of “inciting subversion of State power” under Article 105(2) of China’s Criminal Law. According to the arrest notice, he is currently being detained at the Guangzhou Municipal No. 1 Detention Centre.

Guo Feixiong is a well-known human rights defender in China, who has previously spent 11 years in detention due to his human rights work. The human rights defender has been missing since 5 December 2021, after sending a text message to close friends saying he was under police custody. The formal arrest by the Guangzhou police came less than two days after the human rights defender’s wife, Zhang Qing, died after a year-long battle with cancer on 10 January 2022, in Maryland, United States. The authorities imposed an exit ban on Guo Feixiong in January 2021 and barred him from boarding a flight at the Shanghai airport to the United States to care for his wife Zhang Qing. It is unclear whether the human rights defender has been informed of his wife’s death while in police custody.

Under article 105(2) of China’s Criminal Law, those who incite “others by spreading rumors or slanders or any other means to subvert the State power or overthrow the socialist system” are subject to “fixed-term imprisonment of not more than five years, criminal detention, public surveillance or deprivation of political rights”.

In April 2021, UN human rights experts jointly wrote to the Chinese government to reiterate their “alarm at the continued use of national security provisions of the Criminal Code that have been used to restrict the rights to freedom of expression, of association, and of peaceful assembly.” They were particularly concerned about the ill-defined terms of Article 105, the length of imprisonment stipulated in it as well as other national security-related provisions included in China’s Criminal Law. In a joint report published in December 2021, Front Line Defenders and partner organisations drew attention to the Chinese government’s frequent use of travel ban to punish human rights defenders and their family members.

Front Line Defenders condemns the Chinese government’s inhumane and unlawful refusal to respect Guo Feixiong’s right to freedom of movement for over 12 months, thus denying him an opportunity to see his dying wife. His formal arrest adds to the repeated violations against him over the last 16 years, including two prison sentences amounting to 11 years. Front Line Defenders urges the relevant authorities in China to immediately release Guo Feixiong, to drop the charges against him, and to facilitate his safe travel to the United States as soon as possible in order to attend his late wife’s affairs and comfort his two grieving children.

 

11 January 2022
Human rights defender Guo Feixiong remains incommunicado, while wife Zhang Qing passes away

On 10 January 2022, human rights defender Guo Feixiong's wife, Zhang Qing, passed away in a hospital in Maryland in the US. Guo Feixiong has not been heard from since 5 December 2021 when he sent out a message to his close friends stating that he was under police custody.

30 November 2021
Human rights defender Guo Feixiong’s wife terminally ill

On 25 November 2021, Zhang Qing, human rights defender Guo Feixiong’s spouse, released a letter addressed to Guo Feixiong revealing that cancer cells have spread all over her body and that her doctors told her she has one or two months left to live. She said she would fight the cancer, but that she needs him by her side as soon as possible.

Guo Feixiong is a well-known human rights defender in China, who has previously spent 11 years in detention due to his human rights work. On 28 January 2021, he was stopped at the Shanghai Pudong Airport and was prevented from boarding a flight to the US on the grounds that his departure would “threaten national security”. On 29 November 2021, Guo Feixiong released an online statement declaring that the Guangzhou municipal police and the Guandong provincial police finished reviewing his application for permission to leave China earlier in November, but that the case was later sent by the provincial police to the national Ministry of Public Security for approval. According to the human rights defender’s statement, the national Ministry has not reached a decision yet. Due to persistent harassment and threats against the human rights defender and his family, Zhang Qing together with their son and daughter fled from China and settled in the US in 2009. On 11 September 2015, Zhang Qing and their daughter Yang Tianjiao came to Dublin to receive the Front Line Defenders Award on behalf of Guo Feixiong, who was detained in China at that time.

In June 2021, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and State Chairman, told senior party leaders to “help foreign audiences understand that the Party pursues the well-being of Chinese people” and instructed officials to cultivate a “reliable, admirable and respectable image of China.” Imprisoning human rights defenders for their peaceful and legitimate work and barring them from leaving the country to care for ailing family members directly violates the Chairman’s guidance. Front Line Defenders reiterates its urgent call to the relevant authorities in China to immediately lift restrictions on Guo Feixiong’s freedom of movement and facilitate his travel to the US without further delay. Pending his departure to the US, the authorities should ensure his physical and psychological integrity and fully respect his basic rights, including his right to communicate freely without coercion or censorship.

29 January 2021
Human rights defender Guo Feixiong barred from leaving country to see ailing wife

On the evening of 28 January 2021, border control authorities at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport blocked human rights defender and writer Yang Maodong (杨茂东), better known by his pen name Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄), from boarding a flight to the United States to care for his wife Zhang Qing who is seriously ill. The authorities reportedly cited “suspicion of endangering national security” as the basis for imposing an exit ban on the defender.

Download the Urgent Appeal

Guo Feixiong is a well known figure in China's rights defence movement and laureate of the 2015 Front Line Defenders Award. He has previously spent 11 years in prison for his human rights activities. His first imprisonment from 2006 and 2011 came after he provided legal assistance and organisational support to residents in Taishi village in Guangdong province who were seeking to remove their village chief whom they accused of corruption, as well as after the publication of a book exposing a political scandal in the northeastern province of Liaoning.

His second imprisonment from 2013 to 2019 came after he participated in a peaceful protest in Guangzhou opposing censorship of a local newspaper which challenged government censorship. He was subjected to torture and degrading treatment while in detention. After he was released in August 2019, he has continued to author articles and commentaries on issues concerning human rights, democratic governance, and constitutional reforms in China and other countries.

In early January 2021, the human rights defenders wife Zhang Qing underwent a major surgery in the United States for colon cancer metastasised to the liver and is scheduled to begin chemotherapy for the next six months. On 27 January 2021, Guo Feixiong issued a statement indicating that, on 26 January 2021, two state security officers from the Public Security Bureau in Guangzhou city visited him and informed him that while provincial and municipal police officials agreed to his departure, the Ministry of Public Security has objected and ordered local authorities to block him at the airport, unless he goes to a “special location” in Hubei province, about 1,000 kilometres north of Guangdong, to meet with unknown officials from the Ministry to “reach an agreement”. Guo Feixiong refused as he wishes to immediately travel to the United States due to his wife’s critical health condition. He indicated in the statement that he would immediately go on an indefinite hunger strike if the authorities prevent him from travelling to the United States.

On 27 January 2021, Guo Feixiong went ahead and purchased tickets for flights to the US that were scheduled to depart the following day. On 28 January 2021, he was able to fly from Guangzhou to Shanghai, but was stopped at the immigration counter at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport, where his connecting flight to the US was to depart that evening. His friends last heard from him around 10:00pm local time on 28 January 2021. Calls to his mobiles have since gone unanswered. His current whereabouts and condition are unknown.

The Chinese government has a record of preventing human rights defenders who are overseas from returning to China or denying detained defenders the right to visit dying or gravely ill family members or to attend their funeral. Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the arbitrary exit ban imposed on Guo Feixiong and believes it is a reprisal for his legitimate and peaceful human rights work.