Chinese activist told he could not visit dying wife is re-arrested

·2 min read
<span>Photograph: AP</span>
Photograph: AP

Yang Maodong held ‘on suspicion of inciting subversion of state power’ two days after death of his wife

A Chinese human rights activist and writer who was detained following repeated pleas to be allowed to visit his terminally ill wife has been formally arrested days after she died for allegedly “inciting subversion of state power”.

Yang Maodong, who goes by the pen-name Guo Feixiong, was formally arrested on Monday last week by the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau, two days after the death of his wife, Zhang Qing.

An arrest document stated he was arrested “on suspicion of inciting subversion of state power”, and was being held at the Guangzhou No 1 detention centre. Yang’s arrest was first reported by the online Rights Protection Network group.

Yang is a prominent human rights activist and legal consultant known for working with Taishi villagers protesting against corruption in 2005, after which he was jailed. He has been harassed, reportedly beaten, and in and out of detention for years, including a total of 11 years in prison, where Human Rights Watch said he was subjected to torture, including electric shocks.

In 2009, Zhang and their children fled to the US, where she advocated for Yang’s release. After Zhang was diagnosed with a terminal illness in January 2021, Yang made repeated requests to Chinese authorities to let him go to his wife and children, but was refused on unspecified national security grounds.

“You public servants are also husbands, [blessed with] marital love, must also have empathy of ordinary people,” he wrote to China’s premier, Li Keqiang, and the minister of public security, Zhao Kezhi, at the time.

Dozens of academics, foreign politicians and human rights groups expressed concern about the case. Yang was detained again in December.

From the US, Zhang pleaded with Chinese authorities to let Yang join his family.

“I’m in a critical condition. Things are particularly hard in these cold winter days – we, my family, need him,” she told the South China Morning Post. “Never could I imagine the Chinese authorities were capable of such inhumane cruelty – to keep him locked up when my life is coming to an end, it’s very shocking to me.”

The couple had not seen each other in 15 years.

Yang could face more than five years in prison, according to Sui Muqing, a Chinese human rights lawyer, who also said it was unlikely Yang would go to trial before six months to a year.

“There won’t be any credible evidence, all charges and evidence are arbitrarily fabricated, and the purpose of arresting him is to block his voice,” he said.