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Guo Feixiong has served two prison sentences - amounting to a total of 11 years as of September 2022

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Two prison sentences served
About the situation

Guo Feixiong is a well known figure in China's rights defence movement and, as of September 2022, has served two prison sentences - amounting to a total of 11 years - for his human rights activities. In 2005, the human rights defender 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. Due to his involvement in this case, he was held by the police for three months without any charges. During that time he went on hunger strike to protest against his ill-treatment.

On 8 July 2022, the Guangzhou Municipal Procuratorate decided to indict and prosecute human rights defender Yang Maodong, who is known by his pen name Guo Feixiong, for “inciting subversion of State power”. The case has now been transferred to the Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate Court, which may decide to accept the indictment and prepare for a trial or send the case back to the procuratorate for supplementary investigation.

On 6 July 2022, human rights defender Yang Maodong, who is known by his penname Guo Feixiong, talked to his lawyer via a video link in Guangzhou city, Guangdong province. The defender has been on hunger strike since December 2021. As a result, he has lost a significant amount of weight and now weighs only 50kg. His family is worried that if he continues to lose weight at the current pace, his life will be in danger in two to three months.

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.

27 September 2022
Served two prison sentences -11 years total

Guo Feixiong is a well known figure in China's rights defence movement and, as of September 2022, has served two prison sentences - amounting to a total of 11 years - for his human rights activities. In 2005, the human rights defender 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. Due to his involvement in this case, he was held by the police for three months without any charges. During that time he went on hunger strike to protest against his ill-treatment.

When he was released in December 2005 he was subjected to regular surveillance, harassment and at least one severe beating before being detained again in September 2006. In November 2007 he was sentenced to five years in prison for “illegal business activity”, following his publication of a book documenting a political scandal in China's north eastern Liaoning province.

On his release in September 2011, Guo Feixiong said that the treatment he received while in police custody and later in prison was “beyond people's imagination”. He was reportedly shackled to a wooden bed for 42 days and hung naked from a ceiling by his arms while police used an electric baton to electrocute him. Over the years, Guo Feixiong has undertaken five hunger strikes in support of human rights and protesting his treatment. These lasted 3, 59, 24, 75, and 25 days respectively.

On 8 August 2013, Guo Feixiong was detained for participating in an anti-censorship demonstration that took place outside the offices of a newspaper in January 2013, in Guangzhou. In April 2013, he was involved in a campaign to urge the Chinese authorities to ratify the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Following his arrest, he was held in pre-trial detention for over a year before the first hearing of his trial took place in Guangzhou, in September 2014, and a second hearing in November 2014. A Guangzhou court sentenced him to six years in prison under charges of “gathering crowds to disturb social order” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. Guo Feixiong completed his sentence on 7 August 2019.

In January 2021, border control authorities at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport blocked Guo Feixiong from boarding a flight to the United States to care for his wife Zhang Qing, who was then seriously ill. In the subsequent 12 months, his requests to travel to the US were repeatedly denied and he was kept under tight surveillance until his formal arrest in January 2022 in Guangzhou, two days after his wife succumbed to her illness in the US. As of September 2022, he is awaiting trial after being indicted by the Guangzhou prosecutor under the charge of “inciting subversion of State power”.

9 August 2022
Guo Feixiong indicted for “inciting subversion”

On 8 July 2022, the Guangzhou Municipal Procuratorate decided to indict and prosecute human rights defender Yang Maodong, who is known by his pen name Guo Feixiong, for “inciting subversion of State power”. The case has now been transferred to the Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate Court, which may decide to accept the indictment and prepare for a trial or send the case back to the procuratorate for supplementary investigation.

On 5 August 2022, the human rights defender’s two lawyers conducted a video call with him. The defender is being accused of inciting subversion by authoring articles which were posted online, setting up a website focusing on constitutional democracy where his own and others’ pro-democracy writings are posted, and giving an interview to the US-based media outlet Radio Free Asia on 27 January 2021 when he was barred from flying to the US to see his dying wife.

According the defender’s family, the prosecutors consider Guo Feixiong’s offences to be “major crimes” under article 105 of the Criminal Law. If convicted, the defender faces a minimum of five years in prison. In a letter to the Chinese government in April 2021, UN human rights experts have criticised the vagueness of the term “major crimes” in article 105, which allows the judiciary to hand down long and harsh sentences.

8 July 2022
Family fears for Guo Feixiong’s life as defender continues hunger strike

On 6 July 2022, human rights defender Yang Maodong, who is known by his penname Guo Feixiong, talked to his lawyer via a video link in Guangzhou city, Guangdong province. The defender has been on hunger strike since December 2021. As a result, he has lost a significant amount of weight and now weighs only 50kg. His family is worried that if he continues to lose weight at the current pace, his life will be in danger in two to three months.

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.