Dear President Xi

What would you tell your daughter?

Guo Feixiong has been in a Chinese prison cell for more than 700 days. He lives in a 30 square meter cell with 29 other men. In the more than 2 years since he was arrested, he has not been allowed outdoors once.

Guo Feixiong is the pen name of Chinese human rights defender and legal activist Yang Maodong. He has defended the right to freedom of expression, exposed government corruption, and is no stranger to China’s harsh prisons. In 2006, he was detained and ultimately sentenced to 5 years in jail on charges of “illegal business activity,” after he wrote a book documenting a political scandal in China’s north eastern Liaoning province.

On his release in September 2011, Guo said that the treatment he received while in police custody and in prison was ‘beyond people’s imagination’.

“Security agents shackled my husband to a wooden bed for 42 days. They hung him from the ceiling by his arms, while police used an electric baton to electrocute his genitals.” —Zhang Qing, wife of Guo Feixiong

Over the years, Guo Feixiong has undertaken five hunger strikes in support of human rights and protesting his treatment. These have lasted 3, 59, 24, 75, and 25 days, respectively.

In August 2013, police arrested Guo and detained him for 10 months without charges . In June 2014, he was eventually charged with ‘gathering crowds to disrupt public order’. These charges relate to his organisation of and involvement in protests in support of freedom of the press in January 2013, during which he called on the Chinese government to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. He was tried on 28 November 2014 in proceedings that lasted nearly 18 hours.

A verdict has yet to be announced.

On Friday, 11 September 2015, Guo Feixiong received the 2015 Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk, presented by Front Line Defenders. As Guo enters his third year in a prison cell, his wife and daughter flew to Dublin, Ireland to accept the award.

Zhang Qing, the wife of human rights defender Guo Feixiong, reiterated her call to President Xi:

release all Chinese political prisoners.

Zhang asked the international community to pressure President Xi to cease the relentless persecution of human rights defenders in China, whose families and communities suffer surveillance, abuse, and being forced to live in exile.

2013 Open Letter From Guo Feixiong’s Wife, Zhang Qing, to Xi Jinping

Mr. Xi Jinping:

I am the wife of Guo Feixiong (Yang Maodong): Zhang Qing. When I learned yesterday that Guo Feixiong has again been detained on the unwarranted charge of “disturbing the public order” (扰乱公共秩序) I was shocked and angry. First of all, I must express my sense of outrage as a Chinese citizen, both towards you and towards the Chinese government under your leadership.

This is the fourth time that Guo Feixiong has been locked up by the Chinese government. On this sleepless night, I am flooded with painful memories. But I must pick myself up, and I must raise my pen to write this open letter. I want to let you know, to let the world know, what hardships and cruelties Guo Feixiong — this Chinese prisoner of conscience — has suffered over the past ten years, and what pain and sadness we, his wife and his children, have endured as a result of his persecution.

Since his involvement with rights defense work began in 2003, Guo Feixiong has been illegally detained on four separate occasions.

Illegal beatings and brutal torture have for him become common fare.

This includes:

  1. Interrogated to exhaustion for 13 days and nights in Guangzhou Number One Prison, where he was not permitted to sleep.

2. Placed in leg-irons for more than 100 days in Guangzhou Number One Prison.

3. Kept on a wooden bed in leg-irons and handcuffs for 42 days in Guangzhou Number One Prison.

4. Having his head shaved and being subjected to constant ridicule for more than 20 days in Guangzhou Number One Prison.

5. After being transferred to Shenyang, he was forced by case investigators to wear a black bag over his head, like that worn by death-row inmates, then was taken to a secret location and violently beaten.

6. When taken by Shenyang investigators to the secret location, he was forced to sit on a “tiger bench” for four hours. [NOTE: this is a kind of torture device, seen here].

7. When taken by Shenyang investigators to the secret location, he was cruelly strung up with his hands behind his back by police, forcing him to bear the full weight of his body with his shoulders.

8. When taken by Shenyang investigators to the secret location, he was subjected by police to the use of a taser on his genitals. Furious at the humiliation, Guo Feixiong attempted suicide by rushing at the glass window, but was unsuccessful.

Shenyang police locked Guo Feixiong up together with death-row inmates, and these condemned criminals threatened to carve out his eyes. Guo Feixiong had no choice but to use all his strength to break the glass window to resist them.

In the midst of Guo Feixiong’s persecution, I lost my job because of the interference of the police, and I was constantly shadowed.

Police even followed my child.

I remember one time when my nine year-old daughter was followed too closely. She was frightened and quickly moved ahead of them, but the police still pursued her, moving even closer. When she got home she said: “If only I could do magic, I would make them vanish!”

The persecution of our family later escalated to the point they would no longer allow my two children to attend school: The police threatened Guo Feixiong: “We won’t let your son go to primary school. We won’t let your daughter continue on to middle school.” And they did exactly as they said. My children had to be out of school for a year. When my daughter matriculated, all of her classmates had middle schools to go to, but my daughter didn’t. I remember that every day I was worried about my daughter moving up into middle school — I wrote open letters, and went out constantly to look into schools.

Every time I came him, my daughter would open the door for me. Timidly, she would ask: “Have you found a school?” “No,” I would say, a lump in my throat.

They don’t just use prison, inflicting torture on adults — they make things impossible for children, thinking nothing of destroying a child’s future. This sort of cruelty visited on associated [innocents] must be a rare thing whether in ancient times or in the present day, don’t you think? For me, this has been the greatest pressure, and this is the main reason we moved to the United States [in 2009] with the help of friends.

We sincerely hope these nightmares will end soon. We sincerely hope that human rights and rule of law can enjoy to most basic respect in China. And so, Mr. Xi Jinping, when you said early on in your leadership that we must fully implement the Constitution, when you swore that there would be fairness and justice in every case, even though we had already for so long felt a sense despair, we still held those words in our own hearts. How could we not feel hope, even if those promises were left just one percent fulfilled? That would be a welcome rain in the midst of crippling drought.

But then, suddenly, the crackdown comes again, and we are thrown right back down into despair. On August 17, my daughter learned before I did that Guo Feixiong had been secretly detained in Guangzhou on August 8. She said to me: “The instant I saw the news, a feeling of cold spread through my whole body, and my head felt dizzy. I could hardly get hold of myself. I wanted to cry. To shout: ‘Taken again? But he’s been out no more than a few days!’”

Mr. Xi Jinping, you too have a daughter. Tell me, in a situation like this, how should I console my daughter?

I am proud of my husband. He is a tolerant, humane, responsible and compassionate man, an idealist, someone who struggles tirelessly. Our whole family respects and loves him. In 2008, when he was still in Meizhou Prison (梅州监狱), my daughter wrote him a letter, and she drew a caricature of him. She wrote on the picture: “I am a hero.” Her father was great, she said. He had suffered so much for his beliefs, and through it all he had kept his piece of mind. I truly admire him. He would never commit a crime, and it’s not possible that he’s a criminal. On the contrary, it’s those who have gone out of their way to brand innocent citizens as criminals who are the true criminals.

Mr. Xi Jinping, this open letter I’m writing today is the ninth open letter I’ve written to the senior leaders of our country. All of the letters before were just stones dropped into the sea. Will this letter be any different? I don’t dare hope. But regardless of the result, I will not give up striving. In want to use this letter to let the whole world know my inner feelings, to pray for the peace of my husband.

As Guo Feixiong’s wife, I demand that the Chinese government immediately release Guo Feixiong without charge.

At the same time, I call urgently on the international community: please pay attention to Guo Feixiong. Your attention will be of immense help to China’s peaceful transformation and particularly to the matter of human rights in China! As Guo Feixiong’s wife, in the capacity of the wife of a sufferer, I offer you my thanks!

I wish you peace!

Zhang Qing (张青)

Guo Feixiong’s (Yang Maodong’s) wife

Chinese citizen

August 19, 2013