Detention of human rights defender Yang Maodong in China

August 20, 2013

On 17 August 2013, it emerged that Guangzhou-based human rights defender Mr Yang Maodong, better known by his pen name Guo Feixiong, had been detained on charges of “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place”. Although in detention since 8 August 2013, Yang Maodong’s family were only notified by the police of his arrest on 17 August [!]. Yang Maodong is a well known figure in China‘s rights defence movement and has previously spent five years in prison for his human rights activities. He is currently being detained in Tianhe District Detention Centre in Guangzhou.Frontline NEWlogo-2 full version - cropped

According to his lawyer, Mr Sui Muqing, the reason for Yang Maodong’s arrest is likely connected to his appearance at a public protest in January 2013 in support of a Guangzhou newspaper which was battling government censorship. At that time, Yang Maodong joined other human rights defenders in gathering at the offices of Southern Weekend to speak in support of freedom of speech and show solidarity with reporters working for the newspaper who were resisting censorship efforts.

Yang Maodong is a legal activist and writer who was jailed for five years in 2007 for “illegal business activity” following his publication of a book documenting a political scandal in China’s Liaoning province. In 2005 he provided legal assistance and organisational support to residents in Taishi village in Guangdong province who were seeking to remove their village chief whom they accused of corruption. As a result of his involvement in this case, Yang Maodong was held by the police for three months without charge, during which time he went on hunger strike to protest his treatment. When he was released in December 2005 he was subjected to regular surveillance, harassment and at least one brutal beating before being detained again in September 2006. In November 2007 he was sentenced to five years in prison, back dated to his arrest the previous year.  On his release in September 2011, Yang Maodong said that the treatment he received while in police custody and later in prison was ‘beyond people’s imagination’. He was reportedly shackled to a wooden bed for 42 days and hung from a ceiling by his arms while police used an electric baton to electrocute his genitals. Since his release he has been active once again in the rights defence movement in China and has been subjected to regular surveillance, questioning by the police and periods of house arrest.


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