Chinese rights activist Guo Feixiong has begun a hunger strike at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport after police prevented him from leaving the country to nurse his wife Zhang Qing — who is seriously ill with cancer — in the United States. Guo, 54, started his protest on Thursday after border guards prevented him from boarding a United Airlines flight to Washington. He spoke to RFA’s Mandarin Service while still en route to Shanghai on Jan. 27:
RFA: What action can you take [if denied boarding]?
Guo Feixiong: I only have two very simple ways to resist. After the ministry of public security imposed personal restrictions on me and prevented me from boarding my scheduled flight, I immediately began an indefinite hunger strike. The other is that I will keep releasing information to the rest of the world, and writing open letters to China’s leaders and citizens, so everyone will know what is really going on, and how unreasonably these people, who appear to have lost touch with their conscience, are behaving.
RFA: When did they start to intervene illegally in your travel plans?
Guo Feixiong: The fact that I made a successful passport application shows that [premier] Li Keqiang … to whom I wrote an earlier letter … didn’t stand in my way. The Guangdong Provincial police department and the Guangzhou city police department asked me to write an application report for going abroad, and they allowed me to go abroad before my new passport arrived. With the help of some humane officials from the U.S. Consulate, I managed to get my [U.S.] visa in just a couple of days.
But around noon [on Jan. 26], the Guangzhou branch of the state security police told me face to face that while Guangzhou had agreed that I could go overseas, the ministry of public security in Beijing had imposed a travel ban and ordered border guards to stop me at the airport.
This situation is completely inconsistent with the life-threatening situation of my family and the time-sensitive nature of my trip.
RFA: Who are these people from the Ministry of Public Security who are placing these obstacles, and why now?
Guo Feixiong: It’s a total mystery to me why they are treating me like this, I really don’t know. I have no hatred. I have always been a gentle, restrained and self-reflective person. I just care about my family; I have no agenda for my own personal gain.
RFA: Your wife has just had a major laparotomy for colon cancer with liver metastasis. How is she right now?
Guo Feixiong: After 24 weeks of chemotherapy, as you can imagine, her life is on the line. This is the time when she needs me more than ever before, when she is in immediate danger. It will be totally unbearable to me if I am unable to get there in time. It will be on my conscience. Our kids are still young, and my wife needs me to look after them very, very urgently. There is really nobody else who can do it instead. My presence or absence has a direct bearing on her chances of survival.
RFA: What support can the international community, human rights institutions, and the U.S. government offer right now?
Guo Feixiong: I hope to get the media to call on the U.S. State Department and human rights officials to extend a helping hand, and to express solidarity with me through legal diplomatic channels and press statements, and to ask the Chinese government to face up to this violation of law and discipline by a few officials in the ministry of public security. This is a serious humanitarian incident.
RFA: You have gone on hunger strike many times before, right?
Guo Feixiong: [Yes, but] I am weak now, and my hunger strike is in danger. The state security police could kidnap me tomorrow. If my phone goes offline, it will mean that either they have sent me to hospital, or I am in danger. I am older, now, and physically and mentally exhausted and in severe grief. I wind up seriously injured or even dead in their hands, but I must resist. I must defend the bonds of family love, freedom to travel and basic humanity in the simplest and most basic way possible. It will be worth it.
RFA: In 2013, you were detained for … resisting media censorship, and you suffered torture and abuse, including beatings, electric shocks, intubation and forced feeding during hunger strikes. How did your six-year prison term change you?
Guo Feixiong: When I was in jail, I did not accept any ill-treatment from anyone. I resisted all the way. Finally, my conditions improved. We have to stay rational and restrained. The most important thing is to show the spirit of struggle. We can’t be weak.
RFA: What have you been doing since your release from prison?
Guo Feixiong: I set up a website, called the World Constitutional Democracy Forum (http://xzmz.org/). I also quietly provided significant legal advice for important human rights cases. Political tensions are very high in China right now, and it’s not necessary for me to give details of individual cases.
Reported by Xue Xiaoshan for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.