HRIC has learned from an informed source that prison authorities are deliberately obstructing a visit by the elder sister of imprisoned rights defender Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄) (penname of Yang Maodong, (杨茂东)), who tried to deliver a letter from Guo’s wife, Zhang Qing (张青), urging Guo to stop his life-threatening hunger strike, now in its 37th day. Guo had said previously that he would only stop his hunger strike when he saw his sister.
Zhang, who lives in the United States with their two children, had sent her letter electronically to Guo’s sister, Yang Maoping (杨茂平), for her to deliver to Guo in prison. Yang sent a hard copy of the letter to Yangchun Prison in Guangdong (广东阳春监狱), and requested to visit Guo. Prison authorities told her that they had given the letter to Guo. (Contradicting this claim, the informed source said that a family friend in Beijing who reached the prison by phone on the afternoon of June 14 was told by someone there that the authorities were just then “researching” (正在研究) whether to give the letter to Guo.)
While en route to the prison, Yang was informed by prison authorities that family visits are only permitted once a month, and that Guo’s brother had already visited him in early June. After the early June visit, Guo’s brother said that Guo had apparently lost one-third of his body weight. Yang last saw her brother on May 11, 2016.
Guo is serving a six-year sentence in Yangchun Prison. He was already in grave and deteriorating health when he began his hunger strike on May 9 to protest abusive and degrading treatment by prison authorities.
In the early hours of June 14, Yang sat in front of the prison for several hours in the hope that she would be allowed to visit Guo after all.
Since April, Zhang Qing has been urgently appealing to international authorities to intervene in Guo’s critical situation. She has sent letters to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, on April 27 and May 19, and to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and met with U.S. State Department officials.
HRIC strongly deplores the prison authorities’ actions that are endangering Guo Feixiong’s life and calls upon them to immediately allow Guo’s sister to visit him. International standards for the treatment of prisoners require that prisoners must be given adequate opportunity to communicate with their family, and that family contact may only be restricted where required for the maintenance of security and order. The denial of a family visit for Guo at this critical time raises serious concerns about compliance with these standards and the lack of a reasonable basis for restricting family visits in light of his serious health condition. The prison authorities must also clarify the precise restrictions under which Guo is being held, including the specific time period and the legal basis for those restrictions.