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Sunday 11 December 2016

Jailed and tortured - but activist won't stop fight for human rights

Mark O'Regan and Sam Griffin

Published 12/09/2015 | 02:30

Zhang Qing (left), with her daughter Yang Tianjiao, collects the 2015 Front Line Defenders Award on behalf of her husband, Chinese activist Guo Feixiong, who is pictured in the background
Zhang Qing (left), with her daughter Yang Tianjiao, collects the 2015 Front Line Defenders Award on behalf of her husband, Chinese activist Guo Feixiong, who is pictured in the background

He's been shackled to a wooden bed, hung from a ceiling by his arms, and subjected to electric shocks.

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Languishing in a Chinese jail for the past two years, human rights defender Guo Feixiong has endured a series of vicious punishments and cruelty from an authoritarian state determined to rule with an iron fist.

He is now being held in the notorious Tianhe Detention Centre in south China, where he is awaiting sentencing.

But accepting a prestigious human rights award on his behalf in Dublin, Guo's wife, Zhang Qing, said her husband would continue his fight for equal rights for all.

"He shows enduring strength and courage to pursue rights, equality and justice peacefully," she said as she accepted the Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk 2015.

She called on the international community to put pressure on China to release prisoners like her husband. The father-of-two is a leading figure in the battle for human rights in China.

For more than a decade, Guo has worked as both a lawyer and writer, investigating allegations of abuse and malpractice, while trying to defend the civil and political rights of individuals throughout China.

He was first arrested in 2005 and then again in 2006 after he wrote a book documenting a political scandal.

He was subsequently held in pre-trial detention for 17 months, where he was tortured, sentenced to five years' imprisonment, and received a €5,500 fine.

His wife Zhang told the Irish Independent: "They were so brutal and used any punishment they could think of to try to defeat him.

"They basically wanted to stop him fighting for democracy in China," Zhang said.

However, after being subjected to round-the-clock interrogation, he went on hunger strike for 59 days in protest against his treatment.

"It was such a long period without food, but the Government kept him alive by force-feeding him with a tube.

"He was very, very, sick, at that time. But despite everything, he continued to push for more human rights, when he was released," she said.

After his release, Guo organised a series of protests and was rearrested. He was sent for trial but it was dogged by serious procedural irregularities.

An 18-hour hearing was held last year but no verdict has been issued and he remains in prison today.

At yesterday's award ceremony, presented by author Sebastian Barry and attended by politicians, rights campaigners and foreign dignitaries, Guo's daughter Yang Tianjiao played a piece on the piano called 'The Cosmos', which was inspired by her father.

Front Line Defenders chairman Denis O'Brien said those fighting for human rights were "wonderful people doing extraordinary things" and praised the four other finalists for the annual award.

Irish Independent

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