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China 27 February 2008

Detained cyber-dissident has been on hunger strike for nearly 80 days

Reporters Without Borders is extremely worried about the health of detained cyber-dissident and human rights lawyer Yang Maodong, who has been on hunger strike in Meizhou prison (in the province of Guangdong) for the past 11 weeks. Better known by the online pseudonym of Guo Feixiong, Yang stopped eating on 13 December.

“This is the second hunger strike that Yang has undertaken in a year and this time he has not eaten for almost 80 days,” the press freedom organisation said. “Every day he is given injections that supply a quarter of his daily energy needs and he is continuing to drink liquids, but his state of health is alarming. We urge the authorities to let him be examined by a doctor at once and we reiterate our call for his release.”

His wife, Zhang Qing, today told Reporters Without Borders about the “physical mistreatment, including electric shocks” to which he has been subjected since his arrest a year and a half ago and the “traces of torture, five or six scars.” She said she is now staging a 24-hour hunger strike each week in solidarity with her husband and to “denounce the state’s inhuman and legally inadmissible behaviour” towards him.

The authorities are treating Yang with increased harshness and Yang was denied access to the prison when she went to visit him on 22 January. She was able to see him in the courtyard from outside the prison. As soon as he saw her, the guards surrounding him put a hood over his head. Zhang said he seemed to be “very weak” and “seriously handicapped by the poor state of his pelvis.”

A writer and human rights activist, Yang, 41, was arrested for “disturbing the peace” after organising a rally in the village of Taishi on 13 September 2006. The authorities claimed that he “personally led demonstrations by villagers with the aim of overthrowing the local officials.”

He was sentenced in November 2007 to five years in prison and a fine of 40,000 yuan (4,000 euros). In order to begin collecting this sum, the authorities froze the couple’s bank account on 18 December and withdrew 7,260 yuan.

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