Guo Feixiong (courtesy photo)
FILE - Guo Feixiong (courtesy photo)

Writer and prominent Chinese rights activist Guo Feixiong has been denied proper medical treatment in prison, his sister told VOA on Wednesday.

Yang Maoping, who visited her brother at Yangchun Prison in southern China’s Guangdong Province on Tuesday, said Guo’s health is sharply deteriorating and prison officials are refusing to send him to a hospital for treatment despite repeated requests by Guo and his family since February. The prison provides only primary care facilities

Yang said her brother suffers from gastrointestinal bleeding “because of the diet, lack of sleep and mental torture,” adding that her brother sometimes cannot stand.

"Since his arrival at the prison, he has also had occasional bleeding from the mouth and throat," Yang told VOA sister agency Radio Free Asia (RFA). "He hemorrhaged on April 19, and he has been unsteady on his feet."

Guo, 49, whose birth name is Yang Maodong, was sentenced to six years in prison by a Chinese court in November 2015, amid a continuing crackdown on human rights advocates across the country.

Two other activists, Liu Yuandong and Sun Desheng, were sentenced to three and two-and-a-half years respectively.

The trio was charged with "gathering crowds to disturb social order" during a nearly week-long peaceful demonstration outside the gates of the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly newspaper in January 2013. The protest called on authorities to respect media freedoms amid a censorship scandal embroiling the newspaper's staff writers. Guo, who was detained by Chinese authorities for over two years before sentencing, received an additional charge of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble."

These charges are often used broadly against dissidents.

Prison 'wants them to die'

"He wasn't guilty of anything at all. This sentence is unacceptable and unfair," Guo’s lawyer told Reuters after the sentencing.

Guo had previously been jailed for more than four years for his grassroots activism.

According to rights groups, Guo has been held in a crowded cell that lacks a surveillance camera, which means he could be harmed by other prisoners.

“It is a dereliction of duty, a disregard for the lives of prisoners of conscience to deny them medical treatment," said Guo’s sister, who is calling on the Chinese government to stop abusing prisoners of conscience. "Prisoners of conscience are left to fend for themselves. One suspects the prison wants them to die."

Human rights groups and Western countries have expressed concern about a widening campaign by Chinese authorities to quash dissent among academics, journalists and social activists.

RFA says calls to the Guangdong provincial government's prison management bureau rang unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.

New York-based Human Rights in China issued an urgent call for action in Guo's case on Tuesday, calling on volunteers to contact the prison directly and inquire about Guo's medical treatment.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Mandarin Service. Some information is from Radio Free Asia.