On May 9, 2016, imprisoned and ailing rights activist Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄) (penname of Yang Maodong, (杨茂东)) began a hunger strike to protest degrading treatment in prison that included the video recording of a forced physical exam, which prison authorities threatened to post online. Guo’s repeated requests for transfer out of Yangchun Prison to a facility where he could receive appropriate medical treatment have been ignored.
Over the past three months—during which he has been subjected to forced feeding—his deteriorating health condition has received increasing international attention, including that of five UN experts who issued an appeal on August 4 urging the Chinese authorities to stop all forms of ill-treatment of Guo.
In his essay, “The Hellish Scene Behind Guo Feixiong’s Wishes,” lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟)—who himself had suffered years of torture and abuses for legal defense of vulnerable groups— begins with Guo Feixiong’s wishes when he was being transferred to prison after being convicted in November 2015:
[Guo’s] sister, after visiting him, conveyed his wishes: “I demand that in prison, [I] will have books to read, won’t have to kneel down, won’t be forced to perform labor, and won’t be beaten.”
Gao Zhisheng observes:
For a legitimate government with any sense of morality and responsibility, demands such as not kneeling down, not being forced to perform labor, and not being beaten would mortify the people who make up this government . . . and would set in motion a series of corresponding internal inquiries and remedial efforts. However, this is happening in a Communist Party of China-ruled China, where people have long regarded atrocious human rights violations as everyday occurrences. In post-1949 China, these incidents often fall into complete silence and obscurity just like arrows shot into the ocean. Chronic helplessness breeds a terrifying capacity among the populace—to remain indifferent to any sort of brutalities that others suffer. And it forms a tacit pact among all to tolerate the crimes committed by an evil dictatorship, thus intensifying and nourishing the dictatorship’s impunity.
Gao also shares his own experience in prison in this piercing view of a system that he calls “a wrongfully-convicted person’s worst nightmare.”