More futile silencing

Just another oppressive day in China:

Reporters Without Borders strongly condemned a five-year prison sentence and 40,000 yuan (€4,000) fine imposed today by a district court in Tianhe (in the southeastern province of Guangdong) on cyber-dissident Yang Maodong (better known as Guo Feixiong) for “illegal commercial activity.”

“We are shocked by this harsh and unjustified sentence,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “The court seems to have acted on local or national-level political instructions. We repeat our demand for Guo’s release before next year’s Beijing Olympic Games.” One of Guo’s lawyers said they would advise him to appeal, since he had always said he was innocent.

His trial began on 9 July after nearly a year of investigations during which he was held in custody. He was tortured during interrogation and in June, his wife Zhang Qing wrote to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. The organisation Human Rights in China said Guo had been kept in bed for several weeks and then prevented from sleeping for some days. He staged a 40-day hunger strike to protest against his conditions of detention.

Guo was officially accused of selling 20,000 books using a bogus publishing reference. His wife said his lack of a licence was just an excuse to hide the fact that the authorities did not like the content of the books. Guo said at the start of his trial that “during my first 10 months in prison, 90% of the 175 interrogations I was subjected to involved human rights issues, so it was clearly political persecution.”

Guo, who is also a human rights activist, has been held in Canton’s number 3 prison since the publication of his book The Political Earthquake in Shenyang, in which he condemns corrupt officials of the city in the northeastern province of Liaoning. He has also posted many articles on the Internet.

With at least 2,790 executions in 2006 – and joining a handful of other countries, including America, in rejecting a UN moratorium on the death penalty – the 2008 Olympics remains a perfect opportunity to highlight the Communist regime’s barbarity.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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