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Jailed Chinese Rights Activist in Second Week of Hunger Strike

FILE - Zhang Qing, left, wife of Chinese human rights activist Guo Feixiong, and daughter Yang Tianjiao speak at a press conference before a hearing of a House Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee in Washington, D.C., Oct. 29, 2013.

A prominent Chinese democracy activist who was jailed during a Communist Party crackdown on dissent has entered the second week of a hunger strike, according to his family.

Guo Feixiong, 49, was sentenced to six years in prison last year after taking part in a 2015 censorship protest outside the headquarters of a liberal newspaper in southern China.

Relatives and supporters of the activist, whose real name is Yang Maodong, say his health has deteriorated in recent months. They accuse officials at Guangdong's Yangchun Prison of denying him adequate medical treatment.

According to Guo’s wife, Zhang Qing, prison authorities — who allowed him medical treatment only after being pressured by family and international rights groups — used the opportunity to hurt and humiliate him.

Guo's lawyer had requested that Guo's family be present for a rectal exam, and the prison promised to let Guo's sister, who is a doctor, be present. But on May 9, the prison forced Guo to have a rectal examination without family members present. Guo's lawyer told VOA's Mandarin service that prison officials videotaped the procedure and threatened to post it online.

That same day, prison officials reportedly forcibly shaved his head.

"Guo Feixiong's indefinite hunger strike in prison is in response to the deliberately degrading way he has been treated by the authorities," Zhang stated in an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, which was published May 19.

"The evil deeds that are being deliberately planned and carried out by the domestic security and prison authorities in Guangdong are the direct cause of Guo Feixiong's hunger strike protest and have destroyed him mentally and physically, posing even greater danger to his life," she said.

Via his writings, Guo has demanded government reforms; abolition of all punishment by electric shock; improvement of the treatment of all political prisoners, and ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Guo has said electric shocks are commonly administered to "disobedient" Yangchun inmates. His wife is calling on Chinese authorities to release her husband and investigate the Yangchun officials for abuse.

"President Xi and Premier Li: the brazenly unlawful behavior of the domestic security and prison authorities in Guangdong makes a mockery of the Chinese authorities' claim to govern the country according to the law," Zhang wrote, according to a translation by the human rights group China Change.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Mandarin service.