China: Senior political commentator sentenced to 8 years for “subversion”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the release of Guo Feixiong, a Chinese political commentator who was recently sentenced to eight years in prison and who already served over twelve years in the past.
Chinese political commentator and human rights lawyer Yang Maodong, better known under the pen name Guo Feixiong, was sentenced, on 11 May 2023, to eight years in prison by a court in Guangzhou (southern China), on the charge of “incitement to subvert state power”. Guo, 56, was secretly taken into custody on 5 December 2021 and was officially arrested on 12 January 2022, two days after his wife died of illness.
The Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court convicted Guo for publishing articles critical to the Chinese regime on his website. According to a Reuters media report, diplomats from the US, UK, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, were reportedly barred from attending the trial.
“By again sentencing Guo Feixiong to a heavy prison term, the Chinese regime shows its determination to silence at all costs one of China’s most vocal press freedom defenders. We urge the international community to build up pressure on the Beijing regime to secure Guo’s release alongside all other journalists and press freedom defenders detained in China.
Guo Feixiong has previously been imprisoned from 2006 to 2011 for alleged "illegal business activity" following the publication of a book in which he investigated government corruption, and from 2013 to 2019 for "gathering crowds to disturb social order" after he gave a speech in support of press freedom at a local newspaper’s anti-censorship protest. While in prison, Guo was subjected to torture including electric shocks.
Chinese authorities have recently stepped up their crackdown on political commentators. In April 2023, Xu Zhiyong, was sentenced to 14 years in prison after having published an opinion piece critical of the regime. Two months earlier, Ruan Xiaohuan, a blogger better known by the pseudonym “Program Think”, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power".
Ranked 179th out of 180, China lies at the bottom of the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index and is the world's largest captor of journalists, with at least 114 currently detained.