RSF urges for release of Chinese political commentator on hunger strike, at risk of dying in detention
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of political commentator Guo Feixiong. Detained in a Chinese prison since December 2021, he has been on a hunger strike for several months to protest against his detention conditions.
Chinese political commentator and human rights lawyer Yang Maodong – better known under the pen name Guo Feixiong – has spent almost three years in detention for publishing articles critical to the Chinese regime. He is now at serious risk of dying in prison, as he has been on a hunger strike for several months to protest against his detention conditions. Guo was secretly taken into custody on 5 December 2021 and he was officially arrested a month later. On 11 May 2023, he was sentenced to eight years in prison by a court in Guangzhou (southern China), on the charge of “incitement to subvert state power”.
“Guo made the difficult decision to go on hunger strike to protest the appalling conditions in the prison, and we fear that he may die in detention if he does not receive extensive medical treatment. We urge the international community to build up pressure on the Chinese regime to ensure that he is released before it is too late.
Guo’s weight has almost dropped by half since he was sentenced and he even asked his family to make arrangements for his funeral in a letter from prison after his request to be transferred to another detention facility was refused. On 18 October, Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, also raised the alarm, declaring that Guo was in “critical state of health”.
Guo has previously been imprisoned from 2006 to 2011 for alleged “illegal business activity”, following the publication of his book titled Shenyang Political Earthquake 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. During his detentions he was reportedly subjected to torture.
China’s appalling detention conditions give press freedom defenders serious reasons to fear for their lives. Since Chinese leader Xi Jinping took power in 2012, he has been conducting a large-scale crusade against journalism, as revealed in RSF’s report The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China published in December 2021, which details Beijing’s efforts to control information and media within and outside its borders.
China ranks 179th out of 180 in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index and is the world's largest captor of journalists and press freedom defenders with at least 123 detained.