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China urged not to indict rights activist Guo Feixiong

UPDATE from Human Rights Watch: China: Guangzhou Activists to be Tried on Spurious Charges (27 November 2014)

Freedom House strongly urges the Chinese government to drop the possible criminal prosecution of human rights activist Guo Feixiong and to release him immediately and unconditionally. Freedom House further urges the United States and other democratic governments to press Chinese authorities for Guo's immediate release.

"Guo Feixiong is a veteran and active leader of China's rights defense movement, especially in the south, who has urged the government to follow its own laws and international commitments," said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. "He should never have been arrested. It is important that the international community demand before it is too late that Chinese authorities release him immediately."

Guo (also known as Yang Maodong) is a self-taught legal defender based in Guangzhou. He was arrested in August 2013 for his involvement in campaigns promoting press freedom, political rights, and transparency.

On December 10, 2013, police from the Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau concluded their investigation and submitted an "Indictment Opinion" to the District People's Procuratorate. They recommended that Guo be indicted for "disrupting public order," a charge increasingly used against Chinese rights activists and which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Chinese law requires that prosecutors decide within 30 days whether to issue an indictment.

Although the 30-day limit has passed, no announcement has been made.

Guo's current detention followed his release in September 2011 from a five-year prison term for his earlier activism. According to police, Guo is now facing prosecution for the following acts: delivering a speech promoting press freedom during a protest in January 2013 by supporters of Southern Weekly journalists on strike, organizing campaigns in April 2013 calling for disclosure of officials' wealth, and urging the government to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China signed in 1998.

Authorities denied numerous requests from Guo's lawyers to meet with him, permitting the first such meeting to occur in November, more than three months after he was taken into custody.

Guo's human rights work began in 2005, when he helped organize villagers in Taishi, Guangzhou, to protest against official corruption and land seizures. In 2006, Guo campaigned alongside prominent human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, against a government crackdown on human rights activists. He was formally arrested in late 2006 on charges of "illegal business activity," based on a book he wrote about a political scandal in Liaoning Province. Guo was sentenced to five years in prison, where he was tortured.

China is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2013, Freedom House's annual global survey of political rights and civil liberties, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2013 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2013.

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