Prominent jailed rights activist Guo Feixiong has requested a transfer to another prison following more than 70 days of hunger strike and ongoing abuse from cellmates, his sister has said.
Guo, who has been subjected to forced feeding after beginning his hunger strike in protest at the treatment of political prisoners, is chronically sleep-deprived by abusive cell-mates and routinely subjected to torture by prison guards, his sister Yang Maoping said.
Yang, who visited Guo on Wednesday, said her brother now weighs just 51 kilograms (112 lb), and has been subjected to verbal and physical abuse by both fellow inmates and prison guards, she said in an online statement.
Calls to Yang’s cell phone rang unanswered on Friday.
But rights activist Wu Yuhua, who is among those engaging in a relay hunger strike in Guo’s support, said Yang had spoken to her about the recent visit.
“[Guo] said during his sister’s visit on Thursday that he was willing to end the hunger strike,” said Wu, who goes by the online nickname Aiwu.
“He has a number of serious medical problems, for which he has received no treatment, and he has been subjected to continual verbal abuse.”
“He asked his sister to speak to prison leaders and to request a transfer to another jail, but I don’t know if his request was granted.”
She said that Guo will still need medical treatment even if he stops refusing food and water.
“We really hope that he decides to call off the hunger strike,” Wu said.
It is unclear whether a request from Guo’s lawyer for a visit next week will be granted by the prison, she added.
Overseas-based poet and activist Bei Ling said he is very concerned about Guo, whose birth name is Yang Maodong.
“Back in the days when Guo Feixiong went by the name Yang Maodong, he was a literary critic and a keen participant in cultural events,” Bei told RFA. “I am extremely worried about him right now.”
“As a fellow literature lover, I strongly urge the Chinese prison authorities to grant him his request, so he can get away from these dregs that are the worst of prison life,” he said.
“I also call on the prison guards to extend him the most basic humanity in their treatment of him, whether it’s to allow him to transfer to another prison, or to allow him out on medical parole,” he said.
“This man isn’t fit to be in prison.”
Guo, 49, has previously refused to end the hunger strike he began in early May, as the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to order an end to his force feeding by guards at Yangchun Prison in the southern province of Guangdong.
Prison authorities began in mid-May to force-feed Guo once a day, then twice every other day since mid-June, in a painful procedure that involves forcing a feeding tube into his nostrils and down his throat into his stomach, delivering a liquid nutritional supplement, HRW said.
The procedure is risky, and can lead to major infections, pneumonia, collapsed lungs, heart failure, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other psychological trauma, and goes against international standards for the humane treatment of prisoners.
Guo began his hunger strike calling on President Xi Jinping to implement democratic reforms, end the use of electric shocks in prison, improve the treatment of political prisoners, and ratify a United Nations covenant on civil and political rights.
During pretrial detention, Guo was held in a cell for two-and-a-half years without being allowed out for exercise, contrary to prison regulations.
According to HRW, Yangchun Prison twice admitted him to hospital between April and May, but only for check-ups. No diagnosis nor medical treatments were offered.
Guo began his hunger strike after being subjected to a forced rectal cavity search at the instigation of state security police, as well as forced head shaving and verbal abuse from prison guards.
Guo was sentenced last November for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” and “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order” after a prolonged period in pretrial detention.
During his sentencing hearing, Guo shouted in protest at his treatment while in police custody, where he was held in solitary confinement in a small, dark cell and denied permission to exercise outdoors since August 2013.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.