Chinese rights activist Guo Feixiong has penned an open letter to premier Li Keqiang, asking him to overturn a travel ban so he can visit his wife, who has been diagnosed with advanced cancer, in the United States, RFA has learned.
Guo, 54, was released at the end of a six-year jail term in August 2019, and had been keeping a low profile until he learned a few days ago that his U.S.-based wife Zhang Qing’s colon cancer was spreading.
“I only found out five days ago that she was so seriously ill,” Guo told RFA in an interview on Monday. “The surgery [she needs] is a major operation … to remove the colon tumor and the metastasized cancer in the liver.”
“It is very demanding treatment that also requires a lot of care from family members,” Guo said. “It’s very, very hard, especially as the pandemic situation is so serious in the U.S.”
“I’m off my head with worry and anxiety about this.”
He added: “I went to jail twice for freedom and democracy, while she took our two children and worked hard to raise them overseas.”
“She campaigned for my release, and the whole thing caused her huge physical trauma and huge psychological stress,” Guo said. “I feel very, very guilty about that.”
Guo is currently under a travel ban after his passport was confiscated by police in his home city of Guangzhou, capital of the southern province of Guangdong.
“The state security police have my passport, and it was issued in 2006, 15 years ago now,” he said. “There’s no way I can go overseas without their permission.”
“They told me to my face after I got out that if I went overseas, I wouldn’t be allowed back into China,” he said.
Guo said the letter, addressed to premier Li and public security minister Zhao Kezhi, urges them to order the police to give his passport back, and allow him to renew it.
“I want to renew my passport as soon as possible … I want the Chinese government to consciously reflect on this inhumane treatment, so that not just me but all Chinese citizens have the right to travel without hindrance,” he said.
Curbing peaceful critics
A researcher for the London-based rights group Amnesty International, who gave only a pseudonym Qi An, hit out at the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for using travel bans as a way of curbing peaceful critics of the regime.
“The purpose [of such restrictions] is to deter rights activists from continuing their activism,” Qi told RFA. “It’s now more than 10 years since Guo Feixiong was active, but he persisted in his rights activism in the face of … punishment.”
Guo, whose birth name is Yang Maodong, was jailed for six years by the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court on Nov. 28, 2014, after prosecutors added a new charge at the last minute that effectively forced him to serve the whole of his jail term without counting time already served.
According to the indictment at the trial, the initial charge against Guo was based on his participation in anti-censorship demonstrations outside the cutting-edge Southern Weekend newspaper offices in Guangzhou in early 2013, where he held up a placard and made a speech in favor of press freedom.
In January 2013, activists, journalists, and academics faced off with the authorities after the Southern Weekend newspaper was forced to change a New Year’s editorial calling for political reform into a tribute praising Communist Party rule.
Guo’s placards called on officials to publicly disclose their assets and for the Chinese government to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it signed in 1998.
Guo began a hunger strike 2016 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, rights groups have said.
He was later transferred from Yangchun Prison to Yingde after refusing food and water for more than 100 days in protest at his treatment.
Reported by Gao Feng for RFA’s Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.