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China Change, June 30, 2016
A Recap of Guo Feixiong’s Arrest, Sentencing, and Treatment in Prison
Guo Feixiong was arrested on August 13, 2013, for his role in the Southern Weekly protest at the beginning of that year, and his campaign to demand that China ratify the The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which China signed in 1998 but has never ratified. He was tried in November 2014, but it wasn’t until a year later that a sentence was announced. To deliver a harsher sentence, the court, in an unprecedented and preposterous move, added a second charge at the last minute of the trial, and Guo was sentenced to 6 years in prison for “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place” and “provoking disturbances.” During the 51 months in Tianhe Detention Center in Guangzhou, he was never allowed yard time. China Change called the inhumane treatment “a deliberate effort to harm Guo Feixiong and kill him slowly.”
Early this year he was sent to the remote Yangchun Prison to serve the remainder of his sentence. For months he had blood in his stool, and his mouth bled. He was hardly able to stand after leaving his cell to meet his visiting sister. Both Guo Feixiong and the sister, who is herself a doctor, asked that Guo be given a medical checkup and treatment. A prison official known as Secretary Liu (刘干事) told the sister: “We’ll call an ambulance if he faints.”
With no choice, in April Guo Feixiong’s sister publicized details of Guo Feixiong’s health condition and his treatment in prison. The activist community reacted strongly with a signature campaign calling for his release, and several hundreds have since taken part in a hunger strike relay.
Under pressure, the prison gave Guo Feixiong a physical checkup. At the same time, it used the occasion to dehumanize him. On May 9, he was forced to take a rectal exam, with a high-ranking official from the Guangdong Prison Administration Bureau videotaping the process and threatening to post it online. They shaved his head and required him to “squat like a bug in the presence of prison guards.”
On the same day (May 9), Guo Feixiong began a hunger strike to protest that treatment. Among his demands are the abolition of use of electric batons against prisoners, and the ratification of the ICCPR. In his meeting with his sister on June 13, he asked her to write to Li Jingyan (李景言), the chief of the Guangdong Prison Administration Bureau, requesting a prison transfer.
The Lawyers’ Latest Visit
On the afternoon of June 20, Guo Feixiong’s lawyers for imprisoned, Zhang Lei and Li Jinxing, traveled to the Yangchun Prison and met with him for 45 minutes. The parties were separated by glass, and a total of eight police stood close by. Guo has become extremely emaciated and weak, the lawyers said, compared to the last time they saw him on May 6. The lawyer conveyed the exhortations of Guo’s wife and family to cease his hunger strike.
His older sister Yang Maoping, as well as his wife Zhang Qing, had previously urged Guo to stop his hunger struck in letters that were submitted to the prison and given to Guo.
He thanked everyone’s good intentions and concern, but said that the prison has not ceased humiliating him and refused to meet his demands, and that he’ll continue the hunger strike. He said that he’s carrying out the hunger strike with utter seriousness, that it was a decision he thought through very carefully, and that it was a form of protest and resistance in the furtherance of his ideals. He said that even if he dies, it would be in the process of demanding that the ratification of the ICCPR — it would be a worthy death.
Lawyer Zhang Lei told Radio Free Asia that he’s highly anxious about Guo’s state and that a compromise to the satisfaction of all parties can be reached as soon as possible.
On Guo’s Letter of Appeal
Guo and his lawyers also spoke about his Letter of Appeal, a 29,000-word document that he prepared in response to his sentencing in December 2015. In it, he wrote that the court’s decision was “political persecution by the anti-democratic forces of darkness in China.” The authorities considered this to be an attack on the judicial system, so they wanted to delete that phrase, and also refused to allow Guo to sign it, which would have made it official. Zhang Lei said that he had deleted this particular sentence from the appeal, but the prison still wouldn’t allow it to be submitted. This, he added, didn’t come from the prison. Even the prison didn’t know where it came from, he said.
Guo Feixiong told the lawyers that his appeal “cannot be changed — not a single character of it.” The result was a deadlock.
Zhang Lei said that appeals are a matter for the personal determination of the appellant, and that no one else has the authority to intervene — including the prison, which has no right to censor parts of it.
The two lawyers don’t know the next time they’ll be able to see Guo.
Based on a RFA report of June 27, 2016.
Lawyers’ Account: Court in China Adds Last-Minute Charge in Heavy Sentence Against Rights Leader Guo Feixiong
China Change, published: November 27, 2015
On August 8, 2013, Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄, real name Yang Maodong [杨茂东]) was arrested and then indicted on charges of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place.” The case stems from Guo’s activism around the “Southern Weekend” incident, in which he made speeches outside the newspaper’s offices, and later that year he initiated a campaign demanding that the National People’s Congress ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. On November 28 last year he and co-defendant Sun Desheng (孙德胜) were tried without a verdict. On Friday November 27, after three postponements over the course of 12 months, the Tianhe court in Guangzhou has pronounced its verdict, with Guo Feixiong sentenced to six years in prison.
The heavy sentence came as shock to everyone following the case. More shockingly, the court added a charge right in the courtroom in order, apparently, to deliver a heavier sentence. Li Jinxing (李金星), one of Guo’s two lawyers, posted online that, after the court had completed its questioning, judge Zheng Xin (郑昕) said that it is the opinion of the court that an additional charge should be added to the original “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place”—that is, “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” He demanded that the lawyers immediately provide a defense of this charge. The four lawyers (including two of co-defendant Sun Desheng’s counsel in the same case) objected in the strongest terms. “In terms of legal court procedure, when the Procuratorate has accused the defendant of one crime, the court can’t simply add another one, and sentence the person for two crimes,” Li Jinxing told Radio Free Asia in an interview. “I believe that the court’s action was simply to increase the sentence in total disregard for the law. I see this as one of the most ugly and preposterous precedents in judicial history. It is uncloaked political vendetta, false charges, and persecution of human rights defenders.”
After the sentence, Guo Feixiong’s other lawyer Zhang Lei told RFA that Guo Feixiong was sentenced to four years imprisonment on the charge of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place” and four years on the charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” which would be combined and commuted to six years. Sun Desheng was sentenced to 2.5 years on the latter charge. Both vowed to appeal. Guo Feixiong attempted to speak, believing that the decision was a case of naked political persecution of a democracy activist. Before he finished he was dragged out of the courtroom.
Zhang Lei told RFA: “Our request for the judge to recuse himself was denied; our request for time to prepare our defense was denied; our request that the court restart its session and that discuss the matter with the Procuratorate was completely ignored; and any attempt to even speak on our part was quickly stifled.” Before ten minutes were through, the judge declared that he’d heard the lawyers’ opinions and sent them outside the courtroom to wait. About ten minutes later the court re-opened and Guo Feixiong and Sun Desheng were brought in.”
While waiting for the verdict outside, Zhang Lei (张磊) wrote on social media: “I’m enraged! It’s just too ugly! They pretended to ask lawyers’ opinions, but did not let them speak. When any one of us spoke to provide a defense, judge Zheng Xin would forcibly cut us off and prevent us from speaking. Now he says that he’s already listened to and taken in our defense, and directs us to wait here until the court goes back in session!”
Zhang Lei said to RFA, “When Guo came in, he requested a medical examination for his hand, because on the way to the court he had been very badly injured by bailiffs. The court ignored this. When the lawyers further demanded that court protect the basic human rights of Guo Feixiong, and that he not be harmed during the court procedures, the court also ignored this. The sentencing judge today was cruel and imperious; soon after dismissing these requests he directly announced the sentences.”
Describing the scene outside the court, Zhang Lei told RFA that before they entered the courtroom they saw what looked like a few hundred police, including plainclothes officers. There were also diplomats and foreign journalists, but none were allowed into the courthouse. “We also saw other citizens gather around to observe, including [rights lawyer] Tang Jingling’s wife Wang Yanfang (汪艳芳). They were waiting outside the court the whole time, about 200 meters away from the courthouse. The street leading to the court had been blocked by police.”
Lawyer Zhang Lei added: “This is an extremely dark day in judicial history: when the prosecutors have not even brought the charge against the defendant, the court simply adds it to the crimes of the defendant, increasing their sentence length. This is a great scandal. It’s simply toying with the law, blaspheming the law.”
Guo Feixiong was a pioneer in the rights defense movement in China since the early 2000s. In the seminal Taishi Village Incident in 2005, he ushered in the model of calling together a coalition of defense lawyers, media, public intellectuals, and activists to tackle a case. For his leadership in the incident, he was sentenced to prison for five years on trumped up charges. He was released in September of 2011, but was arrested again on August 8, 2013. He has since spent over 800 days in a packed prison cell without yard time as the Chinese authorities have unlawfully and purposefully deprived him of this simple prison right. It is a deliberate attempt to slowly kill Guo Feixiong.
After the verdict was announced yesterday, dissident intellectual Mo Zhixu remarked: “Guo Feixiong united theory and practice. He has a lucid apprehension of totalitarian systems, and he’s optimistic about the effect of market reform as manifested in the emerging social classes and a fledgling civil society. On the one hand, he does his best to strike a moderate stance in order to attract as many people as possible, including those inside the system; on the other hand, his stance is resolute, and he seeks to stir new groups to promote change. His platform is moderate but his actions radical. His strategy is founded in opposition to the regime that can nonetheless attract the most number of people, and is geared towards action—an approach that has proven to be inspirational and infectious.”
Zhang Lei reported on social media that, after the sentence was handed down on November 27, he saw Guo Feixiong in the afternoon, and read his opinion on the verdict: “A Final Response to the Sentence” (《判决庭上的最后答复》) which he prepared in anticipation to the sentence but not the charge the court invented the last minute. “You have used judicial institutions that should have been applied to uphold justice and safeguard human rights to frame innocent citizens, crush human rights and trample on the core interest of the Chinese nation — the cause of constitutional democracy,” he wrote.
Separately, he noted that in the list of “witnesses” in his judgements, a number were his friends, but there was nothing they said that was disadvantageous to his case, and he is grateful for their protecting him. To the friends who were implicated because of their association with Guo, he expressed his apologies.
Liu Yuandong, 37, and Sun Desheng, 32, were sentenced to 3 years and 2.5 years in prison respectively.
Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International, stated in reaction to the sentences: “Guo’s imprisonment shows that when the authorities want to silence activists, all the Chinese laws, regulations, and the government’s statements at the UN about guaranteeing human rights aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.”
Chinese Rights Advocate Known as Guo Feixiong Is Shocked by Last-Minute Charge, the New York Time, November 27, 2015.
Statement by Chinese Rights Campaigner Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison, translated by Vanessa Piao, November 27, 2015.
Activist Guo Feixiong Held 743 Days Without Yard Time, August 21, 2015.
Guo Feixiong, a Civil Rights Hero, by Xiao Shu, January 8, 2015
Guo Feixiong: The Sovereignty of the People – My Conviction and My Dream, November 28, 2014.
Guo Feixiong and Sun Desheng Indictment, July 7, 2015
To Obama – Why China Does Not Have a Nelson Mandela, by Yaxue Cao, September 23, 2015.
By Xiao Guozhen, published: July 23, 2014
This is China Change’s second profile of Guo Feixiong. Read the one by Xiao Shu.
On August 8, 2013, Guangzhou-based rights activist Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄, a.k.a. Yang Maodong) disappeared. Ten days later following a sustained uproar on social media, his sister finally confirmed his criminal detention upon receiving a notice of such from the Chinese police for allegedly “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place.” Assembling a crowd? Disrupting order? Where? People familiar with Guo Feixiong wondered, including myself. His lawyer at that time, Sui Muqing (隋牧青), explained: the allegation has to do with street demonstrations in support of the Southern Weekend at the beginning of the year. Before him, in Beijing, starting that spring, the New Citizens Movement participants, including Dr. Xu Zhiyong and lawyer Ding Jiaxi, had been arrested and similarly charged for unfurling banners and giving speeches on street calling for government officials to disclose their assets and for China to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The arrest of Guo Feixiong was part of the ongoing nation-wide crackdown on politically active citizens who had sought to exercise their rights.
Guo Feixiong was indicted on June 19, 2014, on the same charges for his role in the Southern Weekend protests and other street demonstrations, and his trial is expected soon. If the trials of Xu Zhiyong, Ding Jiaxi, Zhao Changqing, Liu Ping, and many more over the last a few months are any indication, Guo Feixiong will be found “guilty” and given a harsh sentence, I fear.
A Pioneer of China’s Rights Movement
It would be his 2nd prison term. In the summer of 2005 during the Taishi villagers’ struggle to impeach their village officials for corruption, Guo Feixiong provided villagers with legal assistance and initiatied a media campaign, working
with an assortment of lawyers, journalists, and scholars in one of the earliest incidents that ushered in the rights movement in China. At the time he had already participated and worked with rights lawyers in a number of cases defending rights and freedoms, such as the cases of Cai Zhuohua “illegally” printing Bibles and the Shaanxi private oil rigs. As a philosophy student at East China Normal University in Shanghai, he was an active leader in student democracy movement in 1986 and again in 1989. In September 2005, he was criminally detained by Guangzhou Fanyu Public Security Bureau, and in December was released after the prosecutors dropped the case. He was one of the 14 Persons of the Year of Yazhou Weekly (HK), along with Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), Xu Zhiyong (许志永), Teng Biao (滕彪), Fan Yafeng (范亚峰), Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚), Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强), Li Heping (李和平) and six others. In September 2006, Guo Feixiong was arrested for rallying support for lawyer Gao Zhisheng who had been arrested a month earlier for his defense of Falungong practitioners and his condemnation of atrocities against them.
The horrendous tortures of Gao Zhisheng have been well documented. Guo Feixiong was tortured nearly as badly. When he was convicted of “the crime of illegally operating a business,” in a trial that had no physical evidence but statements obtained through coercion, was sentenced to five years in prison on November 12, 2007. He described these tortures in his self-defense to the court: In Guangzhou First Detention Center, he was interrogated for 13 consecutive days and nights and prevented from sleeping; he was put in shackles for over 100 days, and for 42 days, he was tied to a wooden bed with hands and feet cuffed to it so that he could not bend his body. In the secret detention facility in Shenyang, he was beaten savagely by the police covering his head with a black hood; he was put in the infamous “tiger bench” (老虎凳) for 4 hours; his manhood was shocked by police using high-voltage electric baton, and, unable to endure it, he attempted to end his life by thrusting toward a glassed window; he was put in the same cell with inmates on death-row and, when an murderer threatened to pluck his eyeballs out, he broke a window and defended himself with broken glass.
“Free” for Twenty-Three Months
Upon release from prison in September, 2011, Guo Feixiong told Deutsche Welle in an interview, “What I have experienced in the hands of police was far worse than what [overseas Chinese] media had reported. But for the time being, I do not want to expose anything or anyone. I want to promote something rare in the Chinese society, a concept of tolerance. [We] do not oppose individuals, [we] do not create hostility; instead, [we] advocate democracy and rule of law in China by way of a happy ending.”
Free of bitterness (I don’t know how he did it), he began picking up where he had left and catching up, while living alone in Guangzhou. His wife and daughter left China during his imprisonment to seek asylum in the U. S.
The first time I worked with Feixiong was on the Li Wangyang case. Li Wangyang was a labor activist in Shaoyang, Hunan province (湖南邵阳), during the 1989 democracy movement across pretty China. Li Wangyang had served two prison terms and one labor-camp sentence totaling twenty-one years on charges of counterrevolutionary propaganda, incitement, and subversion. He lost both his sight and hearing and almost all of his teeth as a result of torture endured in prison. On June 6, 2012, one year after his latest release from prison and four days after a Hong Kong media outlet broadcast an interview of him in commemoration of the Tiananmen Movement anniversary, he was found “hanged” in a hospital ward in his hometown. Li Wangyang’s death outraged the activist circle and touched off a massive protest in Hong Kong.
Feixiong and I worked on a statement calling for rights lawyers and legal scholars to form a legal support team and to demand an investigation and justice.
Working with Feixiong was like on a secret mission. We couldn’t talk on the phone because – he told me through more secure (or so we thought) communication — “there is high-tech surveillance equipment outside my apartment building and they watch everything I do and stalk me wherever I go.”
For drafting the statement with Feixiong and campaigning to collect signatures, I was summoned and questioned in police custody for 8 hours. Afterwards, Feixiong encouraged me to write an account of the experience. “It will generate publicity for the team of signers, but also a frontal declaration of our belief and determination. It will shake our persecutors on the inside.”
At the end of July, 2012, Feixiong visited Beijing and we met almost every day at different gatherings. He met with friends old and new, veteran dissidents and young bloods, rights lawyers and activists, scholars and artists. He talked about cooperation and networking. He had his eyes on building a connected citizen block across professions and geographic barriers. I think that was the drive behind his Beijing trip.
Not surprisingly, everywhere we were, whether outside the home of Mr. Hu Shigen (胡石根), with whom Feixiong stayed, or inside a restaurant, or leaving 798 art district, there were security police around or trailing behind us. One time, with Hu Jia behind the wheel, we shook off the vehicle following us at an intersection, unloaded Feixiong who quickly hid behind a billboard at a bus station, and continued driving to lead the security police away. You only see scenes like this in a movie, but this was on the streets in Beijing.
Finally they kidnapped Feixiong to stop him. Midday On August 2nd, Zhao Changqing, who is serving a two years and six months prison term for being a key figure in the New Citizens Movement, told me that Feixiong had been taken away by the police and could not be reached by phone. The next morning I finally got hold of Feixiong. He was in police custody for 13 hours through three transfers: from the neighborhood police station near Mr. Hu’s home to Beijing security police to Guangzhou security police and finally to his neighborhood police station.
Later that day, having managed to slip past surveillance he boarded a train to Beijing as though in a contest of will with the security police. Back in Beijing, he visited the Great Wall in Badaling (八达岭长城) and, a month later, he sent friends a photo of him on the Great Wall taken by a tourist. “I want to send you the most recent photo of me in case I am detained again,” he wrote.
Throughout the summer and into the fall and winter, he was repeatedly summoned for interrogation, but he kept it to himself. “During the five years in prison, I had been through countless torture sessions and beatings. It’s tiring to expose the kind of summons, stalking, and mental harassment I go through now.” But in December, he decided to publicize them. “The security police violate the rights of democracy activists and rights defenders by routinely employing house arrest, summons and forced travel and other egregious means. Few fight back directly, but I reject it categorically, so they are very incensed and take it out on me – they made this clear to me,” he wrote in an email. “If we don’t expose such insidiousness, we could be encouraging them while inadvertently preventing people new to the freedom movement from learning about and receiving training on the struggle.”
Rallying Support for Colleagues
Feixiong’s first prison term was, in part, due to his frantic actions to rescue his close friend, lawyer Gao Zhisheng more than ten years ago. “I propose that all forces, internationally and domestically, be mobilized for a strong and resolute campaign to rescue Gao Zhisheng,” he wrote in August, 2006. “We are not just rescuing one individual but the conscience of the country. The rescue helps the overall democracy movement and rights movement in China.” “The dictators believe they can control and strangle us. It’s time for us to tell them, with our actions, that, no, they can’t!” (link in Chinese)
In July, 2009, while a prisoner in Meizhou, Guangdong, Feixiong exposed a homicide between inmates to the prison management and tried to protect the life of another prisoner. He managed to send the news out to rights lawyer Liu Shihui and spread it. For this Feixiong was beaten dozens of times by thugs doing the authorities’ bidding. The prisoner he protected, risking his own life, escaped execution and was eventually released. Liu Shihui marveled, “Guo Feixiong’s bravery is extraordinary….while a prisoner himself, he identified the murderer in front of the lawyers.”
When the nation-wide crackdown on the New Citizens Movement and other activities started in the spring of 2013, he was concerned and anxious. In emails to me, he urged support in various fashions for Li Huaping (李化平) in Hefei, Liu Ping (刘萍) in Xinyu, the first four NCM activists in Beijing, and the dozen or so activists in Guangdong. After Ding Jiaxi and Zhao Changqing were arrested in April, Feixiong penned an article (link in Chinese) singing the praise of the two “democracy heroes in Beijing.”
Feixiong’s efforts do not stop at organizing protests and defense teams and drafting statements. With any given case he was involved, his eyes were set on systematic change. Following the Li Wangyang tragedy, us and other colleagues studied the Coroner’s Report and the Coroner’s Court system in Hong Kong. “We want to launch a social movement to try to introduce the coroner’s court into mainland China.” Cao Shunli’s death in March this year would have further advanced Feixiong’s effort should he be “free.”
All of our efforts, of course, point to the ultimate question: It is difficult and futile to plan a good tree in poisoned soil, and in China, what needs to be changed is the soil itself.
In January, 2013, during the Southern Weekend incident, Feixiong gave speeches on street arguing, straight to the point: “China’s media censorship is the most reactionary thought policing system that should have long been abolished. We are here today to support the Southern Weekend, not just because they were suppressed; we are here to fight for a universal right, and that universal right is the freedom of speech.”
While battles still have to be fought one at a time, Feixiong initiated the campaign to demand the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by the Chinese National People’s Congress. China signed the ICCPR in 1998 as it bid for WTO entry but has never ratified it.
Feixiong didn’t seem to have foreseen his own arrest in August, 2013. Or maybe he did, taking it as a close possibility on any given day. His two crimes, according the indictment whose crudeness and ludicrousness the Chinese authorities are not shy from showing to the rest of the civilized world, had to do with protests during the Southern Weekend incident, the street demonstration for the ratification of ICCPR, and asset disclosure by officials.
Theorist and Strategist
Everyone knows Guo Feixiong is fierce and indomitable. When he was detained in 2005 in connection to his work in providing legal training to Taishi villagers, he staged a hunger strike for 59 days in protest. In Meizhou prison where he started to serve the five-year sentence in 2007, he was on a hunger strike for 75 days demanding political reform from the Chinese government. He again was on a hunger strike for 25 days protesting his illegal detention which he believed was for no other reason but to prevent him from continuing his activism as well as being a sustained reprisal for his role in China’s rights movement.
Everyone knows he has been a doer, and has made profound contributions to the development of civil society in China over the last decade or so.
But fewer people know that he is also a theorist who wrote more than 40 articles between spells of prison terms, reflecting on topics ranging from the complexity of Deng Xiaoping’s character to the causes of the collapse of the USSR, from the positive impact of the rights movement on all levels of society to the concept of “popular sovereignty.”
He placed major rights defense events into larger perspectives. In an essay titled The Taishi Incident and China’s Rights Movement – Speech at Harvard University Fairbank Center for East Asia Research on June 20, 2006, he analyzed the social causes of the event and the key players in addition to the villagers themselves. He wrote, exuding optimism for the future of the rights movement, “together, the development of civil society and an independent judiciary are the two primary goals of liberal and democratic advocates.”
In his long article Reflections on the Three-day Political Gatherings in Front of the Southern Weekend Offices, published in January, 2013, his thoughts centered on two things: citizens and action. “A citizen,” he wrote, “is by definition a man who possesses political rights and exercises his political rights. Real citizens are active citizens.” “To push forward the constitutional democracy process and to build civil society, we must start from direct actions, from exercising citizens’ political rights.”
Apart from the usual “suspects” such as rights lawyers, veteran activists, liberal thinkers and online opinion leaders, he saw grassroots young activists, not college students, as in 1989, as the main players in future democracy movements, especially when they joined with the urban middle class. Meanwhile he made positive calls to the authorities in Guangdong and beyond: “civil society’s democracy experiments need assistance from both the authorities and the civil society itself. The authorities need not to support them; it shall be enough if they do not oppose them, sabotage them and illegally suppress them.”
Fexiong’s arrest and indictment must be a cruel awakening. He will be tried soon, and in all likelihood, he will be “convicted” and locked up in jail again as they did to the New Citizens Movement activists in Beijing and the Xinyu Three and more in Hefei, Chibi, Zhengzhou and those elsewhere waiting to be tried.
For much of the past eight years his friend Gao Zhisheng has lost his freedom and suffered unspeakable torture and spent the last two years and eight months in the remote Shaya prison in Xiangjiang. His friend Gao Zhisheng due to be released on August 7, but Feixiong is again in jail facing trial. Such is China’s political reality, and the history of China’s rights movement in a nut shell. It is true that people’s awareness of, and demand for, rights have grown tremendously over the last decade, but precisely because of it, the economically strengthened dictatorship in China is suppressing such demand with unprecedented resources and harshness. The two forces are tearing China apart. They can put Guo Feixiongs and Xu Zhiyongs in jail, but they will not stop this ever expanding divide.
News brought back from lawyers’ meetings with Feixiong is worrisome. He is suffering from joint pains and general weakness. His sister, a MD, said a hunger strike caused his health to deteriorate rapidly and the prison diet and living conditions don’t help. I would add that, from case after case we know that the Chinese authorities have destroyed the physical and mental health of many politically prisoners. Last July, days before being secretly detained, he asked me to “please help call for attention” to his case should he be in trouble again. My heart was broken. I have told his stories to everyone and anyone I can, and I have prayed for him. Here I am, writing what I know of him in the hope that more people will get to know Guo Feixiong, and more people will speak out and do what they can to demand his freedom.
Too often we tend to recognize and admire the heroes when they are gone, but we must realize that sometimes they live right in our midst. I think Feixiong is such a person and we must cherish him here and now.
Xiao Guozhen (肖国珍), born in 1972, is a Beijing-based lawyer from Hunan. She is a graduate of the University of International Business and Economics School of Law in Beijing. Because of her rights defense-related work, she has been subjected to police surveillance, threats, and unlawful restriction of personal freedom. She is currently a fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy.
“‘I Want to Be a Man of My Word’: A Summary of the Guo Feixiong Case and His Political Goals” by his lawyer Zhang Xuezhong
Journalists at the Southern Media Group Speak out, Again, discrediting charges against Guo Feixiong and other activists
(Translated by China Change from a version rewritten for this site)
Published: July 7, 2014
Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄, pen name of Yang Maodong 杨茂东) is a pioneer of China’s rights movement. Just released in September, 2011, after serving a five-year prison term on trumped-up charges, he was criminally detained again in August, 2013, in Guangzhou. His trial is expected soon. — The editor
Guangdong Province, Guangzhou Municipal People’s Procuratorate for the Tianhe District
GZ Tianhe Procuratorate criminal indict. (2014) No. 1343
Defendant Yang Maodong (a.k.a. Guo Feixiong), male, born August 2, 1966, ethnic Han, undergraduate university education level, ID number: 42010219660802****, place of household registration: [redacted by translators], Hanyang District, Wuhan Municipality, Hubei Province. Was sentenced on November 14 to a five-year prison term by the Guangzhou Municipal People’s Court for the Tianhe District for the crime of “illegal business operations” and was released upon completion of the prison term on September 13, 2011. Was criminally detained on August 9, 2013, by the Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau Branch for the Tianhe District on suspicion of gathering crowds to disrupt order in public places. On September 11, 2013, this Procuratorate approved arrest and the arrest was carried out on September 12 of the same year by the Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau Branch for the Tianhe District.
Defendant Sun Desheng (a.k.a. Sun Sihuo), male, born December 4, 1981, ID number: 42112619811204****, ethnic Han, elementary school education level, place of household registration: [redacted by translators], Qingshi Town, Qichun County, Huanggang Municipality, Hubei Province. On February 24, 2013, was administratively detained for 15 days by the Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau Branch of Yuexiu District for illegal procession and assembly. On August 13, 2013, was criminally detained by Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau branch for the Tianhe District on suspicion of gathering crowds to disrupt order in public places. On September 11, 2013, was placed under residential surveillance in a designated location by the Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau branch for the Tianhe District. On October 16, 2013, this Procuratorate approved arrest, and the arrest was carried out on the same day by Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau branch for the Tianhe District.
The Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau’s Tianhe District Branch conducted and completed investigation on this case, and transferred it to this Procuratorate on December 12, 2013, for review for indictment of defendants Yang Maodong and Sun Desheng on suspicion of the crime of gathering crowds to disrupt order in public places. Upon receiving the filing, this Procuratorate notified the defendants on December 13, 2013, of their right to defense, interrogated the defendants in accordance with law, and reviewed all the materials of this case. During this process, [the case] was sent back to the Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau’s Tianhe District Branch twice for supplementary investigation, and the time period for reviewing and deciding on indictment were extended three times.
Investigation in accordance with law has ascertained: At approximately 5 p.m. on January 5, 2013, defendant Yang Maodong organized accomplices Yuan Xiaohua, Yuan Bing (both of whom were indicted in separate cases) and others to gather at the Fuhua Hotel in Tianhe District, Guangzhou, and at a nearby café, where they discussed plans to raise signs and give speeches outside the gate of the Southern Weekly offices at No. 289 Guangzhou Avenue Central in Yuexiu District. From January 6 to January 9, 2013, defendant Yang Maodong and accomplice Liu Yuandong (indicted in a separate case), Yuan Xiaohua, Yuan Bing and others held signs and gave speeches outside the gate of the Southern Weekly offices, attracting large crowds of onlookers and seriously disrupting the order of the public place at the gate of theSouthern Weekly offices. Afterwards, defendant Yang Maodong published several items on overseas media sites commenting on the “Southern Weekly New Year’s Greeting Incident.”
In early April, 2013, defendants Yang Maodong, Sun Desheng conspired with accomplice Yuan Bing in their temporary residence in Changsha, Hunan province, where they made plans to “raise signs in streets” in Wuhan, Yueyang, Zhuzhou, Hengyang, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dongguan, and post photos online. Between April 12 and May 1, 2013, under instruction from defendant Yang Maodong, defendant Sun Desheng and accomplices Yuan Bing and others held signs in the aforementioned eight cities; and Sun Desheng also took photos in Nanning, Shanghai and other areas and posted them on internet, creating false impressions. In Yueyang and Changsha, they caused onlookers to gather and watch; in Yueyang, they obstructed police from enforcing the law and seriously disrupted order in public places.
On August 8, 2013, defendant Yang Maodong was apprehended; on August 13 of the same year defendant Sun Desheng was apprehended.
The evidence affirming the facts stated above is as follows:
- Laptop computer and other physical evidence;
- On-site photos and other documentary evidence;
- Witness statements by Wu Yangwei and others;
- Statements and defense arguments of defendants Yang Maodong, Sun Desheng, and accomplices Yuan Bing, Yuan Xiaohua and others;
- Records of examinations and inspections, and records of identification; and
- Video and audio materials.
This Procuratorate believes that defendants Yang Maodong and Sun Desheng disregarded the state law, and acted as ringleaders in gathering crowds to seriously disrupt order in public places , thereby violating Article 291 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China; the criminal facts are clear, the evidence is credible and sufficient, and [the defendants] should be subjected to criminal prosecution for gathering crowds to disrupt order in public places. Defendant Yang Maodong was previously sentenced to a prison term for voluntarily committing a crime; committing crimes punishable by a criminal sentence within five years after serving a sentence constitutes recidivism according to Article 65 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, and should carry harsher penalty. In accordance with Article 172 of the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China, we hereby indict [the defendants] and ask [the court] to sentence them in accordance with the law.
Sincerely submitted to:
Guangdong Province, Guangzhou Municipal People’s Court for the Tianhe District
Guangzhou Municipal People’s Procuratorate for the Tianhe District (seal)
Prosecutor: Yang Fan
June 19, 2014
- Defendants Yang Maodong and Sun Desheng are currently detained the in Guangzhou Municipal Detention Center for the Tianhe District.
- There are a total of 13 volumes of litigation documents, evidence, and supplementary investigation and 8 compact discs.
(Thanks to Joshua Rosenzweig and his translation of Police Indictment Opinion for Guo Feixiong & Sun Desheng. This translation of the indictment incorporated Mr. Rosenzweig’s translation where the wording is the same in the two texts.)
“‘I Want to Be a Man of My Word’: A Summary of the Guo Feixiong Case and His Political Goals” by his lawyer Zhang Xuezhong
By Xiao Shu, published: July 7, 2014
Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄, pen name of Yang Maodong) was arrested on August 8, 2013, and indicted on June 19, 2014, on charges of “gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place.” Specifically, he is accused of organizing a demonstration outside the Southern Weekly headquarters during the paper’s New Year Greetings incident in January 2013, and of planning to hold signs in eight cities in the spring of 2013 calling for officials to disclose assets and for China to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. But cowardly, the indictment made no mention of his call for press freedom, asset disclosure and the ratification of ICCPR. His lawyer Sui Muqing stated that the case against Guo Feixiong is nothing but blatant political persecution against an influential activist. – the Editor
Guo Feixiong and I have been friends for years. Since I was expelled from the Southern Weeklyby direct order from Beijing in 2011, I have often stayed with him on my visits to Guangzhou to save expenses.
He lived in a residential development called Fame & Elegance Gardens in northern Tianhe District where he bought an apartment– at the time a luxurious one – more than a decade ago when he was a successful book dealer. His apartment, dilapidated after years of neglect, was furnished with only one desk and one chair. When he was imprisoned in 2005 and his wife and daughter subsequently immigrated to the US to get away from constant harassment by the authorities, the apartment was rented to a private daycare facility. To this day, the walls of the living room are still covered with faded childish drawings.
It took guts to stay with Guo Feixiong because he was someone who enjoyed “special protection”: the first floor had a “security office” just for him with five or six guards living there. Everything was on record: who went to see himand for how long. Walking with him into the building, you got a vigilant “eye salute” from the guards. Leaving the building with him, you would not only receive the same “eye salute” but also be trailed by a man ten meters behind. In his apartment, you couldn’t speak loudly, especially not in the living room, because there were listening ears on the other side of the walls.
I was not his only guest. A number of rights lawyers used his apartment as their guesthouse.
During my last stay with Guo Feixiong in February, 2013, I did at least two things. One was to write the first draft of Organized Rights Defense – the Only Way to Bid Farewell to the Era of Stability Maintenance (《组织化维权——告别维稳时代的必由之路》).He was very excited about the ideas in the article and we had a lot of discussions about them. Later, the article was a sensation when it was posted on Sina Weibo, causing the authorities to obliterate all of my accounts across the Internet. Such an accomplishment was surely due to Guo Feixiong’s contribution.
The other thing wasthe preparation for a signature campaign to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which China signed in 1998 to ease its way into WTO but was never ratified. Guo Feixiong and I drafted two versions of the appeal, I a moderate one and he a strong one, and in February we launched the campaign before the annual “Two Meetings”. With the two versions together, we collected over 4,000 signatures and attracted a lot of attention from international media.
When Guo Feixiong was released from jail the 3rd time in September, 2011, I went to see him along with two others: Yan Lieshan (鄢烈山), a senior columnist with the Southern Metropolis Media Group (南方报业), and a college professor. We talked for hours on end; he was still weak and pale but his eyes sparkled. After that, I met him often, on most occasions waiting for him in front of Guangzhou Jiujia Restaurant (广州酒家) near his home, and then we would walk aimlessly and talk about whatever was on our minds. He was so hungry and frantic for new information as though he was going to catch up on all that he had missed during the five years in jail overnight. Every time he saw me he told me new things he had learned. His most important discoveries were the Internet and civil society. He was incensed by his discoveries. “The conditions are so good now, much better than before I went in [to jail]. Society has changed so rapidly,” he enthused over and over again.
Guo Feixiong quickly resumed activism. More importantly, he had begun a decisive transition. He was one of the pioneers of China’s rights movement before his imprisonment in 2007, best known for his role in the rights campaign in Taishi village, Guangdong (广东太石村). This time around though, he would no longer limit his effort to traditional, case-specific rights defense. Instead, he would push to integrate rights defense that seeks justice for individual conflict into a broader citizens’ movement that takes aim at universal civil and human rights .
Guo Feixiong has always been known for defending his own rights at all costs. After he was secretly detained last August, he went on a 25-day hunger strike to protest the illegal arrest and detention. In 2005 in Taishi village, when he was detained for providing legal assistance to villagers, he staged a hunger strike that lasted 59 days. After regaining freedom in September, 2011, Guo Feixiong traveled to Beijing but was kidnapped and forcibly repatriated to Guangzhou by the Beijing State Security(国保). He was furious and managed to slip out away from surveillance and returned to Beijing by train shortly after arriving Guangzhou. He openly announced that he would defend his right to travel freely, regardless of possible retaliation. Perhaps his indomitability deterred his opponents; he was not obstructed the second time he went to Beijing.
This episode can be regarded as acontest of will and a tactical evaluation for both sides, also an important part of Guo Feixiong’s overall mapping of the boundaries.
Previously, he had launched a book salon in Guangzhou that organized friends to read a list of books on the subject of “peaceful political transition.” For each book he wrote a commentary. The salon started off smoothly, each time with twenty to thirty people attending. Over the meetings people discussed topics of democracy and autonomy, observing strictly the Robert’s Rules of Order to avoid dominance of a few. He invited me to give a speech to the salon in May, 2012, after I concluded my academic visit to the National Chung Cheng University in Taiwan.
The salon was quickly met with harassment from the authorities and could no longer be held in the bar used for the meetings. Guo Feixiong’s stubborness struck again: the salon violated neither the Constitution nor the law and it would be held no matter what. If it couldn’t be held in a bar, it would then be held in his apartment. As a result, Guo Feixiong’s desolate home in the Fame and Elegance Gardens became a bustling place. The salon was his attempt to network, and that was probably why he was so excited when he read my essay about organized rights defense. We understood each other.
Through the salon, Guo Feixiong quickly assembled a group of individuals, including several rights lawyer in Guangzhou. For example, lawyer Sui Muqing (隋牧青) had not been part of the rights movement and citizens movement before he met Guo Feixiong. Since then, he has become a staunch supporter of Guo Feixiong and worked tirelessly to try to free him after his arrest last year. Lawyer Sui Muqing was by no means the onlyperson who was attracted to Guo Feixiong and his ideals.
As the most open region in China, Guangdong had been a tad more tolerant of dissent. Before Guo Feixiong’s release, Tang Jingling (唐荆陵), Ai Xiaoming (艾晓明) and YeDu (野渡) had been the leading figures in Guangzhou’s circle of activists. Guo Feixiong’s network building took it to the next level, laying a foundation for it to rise in China’s civil movements. During the Southern Weekly incident in January 2013, activists in Guangzhou took to the street in ways that surprised China and drew notice from the international media – there was Guo Feixiong’s work in it.
His work was not limited to Guangzhou. He traveled around the country to meet dissidents and activists. Everywhere he went, the local stability maintenance apparatus would be on high alert, monitoring his every move and warning those who he planned to meet to stay away from him. But these warnings were met with ridicule and Guo Feixiong was warmly received at each stop where, after a five-year hiatus, he was able to rebuild trust with friends across China.
The most noteworthy trip was the one made in July, 2012, to Xinyu, Jiangxi (江西新余) where Liu Ping (刘萍), Wei Zhongping (魏忠平) and Li Sihua (李思华)had been constantly harassed, tortured, or placed under house arrest for taking part in the local elections of people’s representatives as independent candidates in 2011. Guo Feixiong thought highly of ordinary citizens’ participation in elections and admired the three heroes of Xinyu, deeming them trail blazer for their grassroots activism. He and several colleagues drove hundreds of miles to Xinyu to express their support for the trio, to take photos and videos for future reference, and to prepare for possible lawsuit against local government for their illegal treatment of the three in the hope to deter further use of violence against the three.
There was more to his Xinyu trip, and that is his attention on local elections of people’s representatives. He firmly believes that China’s peaceful transition must begin from making breakthroughs in the local elections, and the civil society must make preparations for it sooner rather than later. In private exchanges with me, Guo Feixiong repeatedly talked about how he would position himself: He would either devote himself to organizing trainings for independent candidates, or campaign as an independent candidate himself to become the first elected mayor of a county in contemporary China. Such is Guo Feixiong’s vision of China’s transition to a democracy.
The constitutional democracy he has advocated, in his own words, “would erase the legitimacy of state, order and development [under the current one-party rule] and replace it with the one and only legitimacy of elections. This is the change to be. It is radical, and it is not gradualism.” However, in terms of operation, he is very cautious.
He is someone who has been badly treated by the Chinese regime: He has been subjected to horrific tortures, beatings and years of imprisonment, but he has not one iota of hatred in him, nor is he inclined to violence. Talking to him or reading his writings, you would be drawn to their peacefulness and moderation. He believes that the very concept of freedom and democracy is based on built-in elements of reason, humaneness , tolerance, goodwill, compromise, and mutual engagement, rather than a distorted and belligerent mindset. And he wrote, “a look at the dozens of countries in the third wave of democratic transition, reconciliation is the undisputed theme.”
Therefore, on the one hand, he strongly promoted civil actions to overcome fear and to fight openly for citizens’ political rights. He saw the need to build a stronger political force among citizens, to establish the leading role of civil society in China’s peaceful transition to a democracy.On the other hand, he does not believe that there are no good people at all in the system and he opposes the monolithic division of system and non-system. In a BBC interview in March, 2013, he even expressed goodwill towards China’s new leaders, this is because he believed that, among the variables to change, apart from citizen opposition, “there is a social variable with a strong forward push that cannot be ignored, that is, the power within the system that recognizes and identifies with the values of a constitutional democracy. If we do not take a naïve, absolutist view that ‘everyone in the system is evil,’…we can assert without hesitation that, just as there has been internal split in any era, there must be a significant number of doers in the system who have been believers of democratic values. They will not stay silent forever and become lost; they will rise at the right time to make an impact. They might even want to take the initiative to effect change and to embrace historic challenges and opportunities, because they too are humans.”
The Southern Weekly incident and the ICCPR signature campaign were Guo Feixiong’s practice of the kind of direct citizen action he advocates in order to build citizens’ political power, and today he is paying a huge price for it: he has committed no crime whatsoever, but he was arrested last August and charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order.” On June 21, he was indicted.
This is the fourth time Guo Feixiong has been imprisoned. He knows what he is doing. Most of the front runners are stepping stones and sacrifices, he once said openly, and as a front runner, he is prepared to push the boundaries and build structures and spaces [for citizens’ opposition]: “We are willing to be the cannon fodder for freedom and democracy. If this democracy experiment of ours can lead to the civil society and internet communities to go beyond expressions and take actions, then our efforts and sacrifices will not be in vain.”
Guo Feixiong’s home at the Fame and Elegance development is probably covered in dust again. But I believe he will return soon, we will meet in his place again, no doubt a gathering ground for China’s civil political society. Three rounds of imprisonment have not subdued him, and this time will be no exception. He will come out of this ordeal stronger, so will Xu Zhiyong, Ding Jiaxi, Zhao Changqing and Liu Ping who have shown to the courts and the world their steadfastness in the face of persecution. They will be back and they will be leaders of China’s civil political community.
A tide of history has been formed; any obstructions and crackdowns will end up promoting it by trying to stem it. The crackdown on Guo Feixiong and the New Citizens Movement is but a new footnote to this iron logic. Their actions and their sacrifices will not be for nothing. They will not be cannon fodder but great monuments.
Xiao Shu (笑蜀), the pen name of Chen Min, is a former columnist for the Chinese newspaper Southern Weekly and the Chinese magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu, and an active participant in the New Citizens Movement. He is currently a visiting scholar at National Chengchi University in Taiwan.
“‘I Want to Be a Man of My Word’: A Summary of the Guo Feixiong Case and His Political Goals” by his lawyer Zhang Xuezhong
(Translated by Zhang Fan. Translation based on an abridgment of the original essay with the author’s approval.)
A Permanent Member of the UN Security Council Must Be Bound by the International Bill of Human Rights
By Bao Tong, published: October 24, 2013
While the Chinese Communist Party has been crusading against the universal values domestically, the Chinese government is vigorously seeking to become a member of the UN Human Rights Council this fall. We laud the latter’s aspiration. As a Chinese citizen, I hope China will fulfill its wish. But China is a big country with a large population where the rights of its 1.3 billion people have neither been guaranteed nor protected. This compromises the implementation of the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The only impediment comes from China itself. The Chinese government signed the ICCPR 15 years ago, but over the last 15 years, it has not ratified the Covenant that would have been a real blessing for the Chinese people. This is perplexing. If the CCP resisted this Covenant on rights for the sake of maintaining its ideology that are anti-universal values, why did it send representatives 15 years ago to the UN to sign it? Since China signed the document, it should be ratified, and put into effect. China should not shelf ithe Covenant for 15 years without giving any explanations.
The mystery behind it perhaps involves leaders on too high a level and schemes too deep to be fathomed by outsiders. But no matter what the case was in the past, the CCP should put aside the old books and make renewed, responsible choices. It should either immediately ratify and, going forward, strictly implement the ICCPR as well as Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution, or declare that it was a mistake to sign the ICCPR and that Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution is also wrong, and withdraw from the UN Security Council. China has put it off for 15 years. It is okay for a bat to fly and be a mammal at the same time, but for a country, it is a joke.
Some may say, All right, China can withdraw from the ICCPR, but why withdraw from the Security Council? My understanding is that a member of the Security Council, a permanent member in particular, must accept the constraint of the International Bill of Human Rights. If a government cannot even be held responsible for its own citizens and its own Constitution, how can we expect it to be responsible for the UN and for international agreements? If a government is interested only in maintaining its own rule but not in maintaining its citizens’ civil rights, can you expect it to maintain the peace and security of the world?
Bao Tong (鲍彤) was the secretary of Zhao Ziyang (赵紫阳), the CCP Secretary General sacked for his sympathy for the students during the Tian’anmen Square protest in 1989. Bao Tong was also director of CCP Central Committee’s Political Reform Office. He was jailed after the Tian’anmen incident and expelled from the party membership. He now lives in Beijing and writes commentaries about current Chinese affairs for overseas media outlets.
(Translation by China Change)