September 10, 2008
Guangdong Province Meizhou Prison
66 Meizhou No. 3 Road
Meizhou, Guangdong 512035
Dear Leaders of Meizhou Prison:
We have learned that rights defender Yang Maodong (also known as Guo Feixiong) has been serving his sentence at your prison since December 13, 2007. He has been held there for almost ten months.
We are saddened to see that Yang Maodong has still not received a fair trial. The international community is closely monitoring his situation in prison. During these ten months, his relatives were given permission to visit him several times. We have learned that his treatment in your prison has gradually improved. During visits with relatives on May 22, July 28, and August 29, he made no complaints about prison supervision. We must acknowledge the improvements your prison has made.
However, we have also learned that on December 28, 2007, Yang Maodong's wife, Zhang Qing, and his younger sister found out when they visited Yang Maodong for the first time that he had already been on hunger strike for fifteen days. Additionally, he had suffered beatings and had been threatened that he would be sent to a mental hospital.
On January 22, 2008, on her second visit, Zhang Qing was told that Yang Maodong had been placed under "strict supervision" for three months for disobeying prison rules. During this period, he would not be allowed visits from family members or to receive letters or packages. But the prison official refused to tell Yang Maodong what rules he had in fact violated.
On April 18, 2008, when Yang Maodong saw his family members for the first time after coming out of "strict supervision," he spoke about his hunger strike, how the prison used a feeding tube to force-feed him a substance that had no nutrients, and about being forced to stop his hunger strike because of extreme poor health. He also said that he lacked paper and pens and writing was difficult. He never received the pens and notebook that Zhang Qing had mailed to him. He also said that apart from his four cellmates, everyone living on his floor suffered from mental problems and had committed horrible crimes such as killing their own parents. Yang Maodong had asked many times to be transferred, but the prison authorities never gave their permission. The telephone conversation between Yang and his family during their visit was also cut off.
We have also learned that your prison classifies inmates into four levels of supervision. The strictest level is "strict supervision." Yang Maodong was put under strict supervision for three months right after he arrived at Meizhou Prison and was not permitted visits from family members or to receive letters and packages. He was not permitted to cross the three yellow caution lines drawn in front of his cell door. Yang Maodong is now under observation, the level of supervision below the strictest, which permits two letters and one visit per month. Visits are limited to forty minutes; conversations are via telephone with loud feedback through a thick pane of glass. Further, the conversations are monitored and recorded. If the guards feel the contents are inappropriate or involve state secrets or prison conditions, etc., they would cut off the line.
Meizhou Prison is a modern and civilized provincial-level prison in Guangdong, and it is also a base for model education for Meizhou's police force. In view of the "crime" that Yang Maodong committed, he should never have been sent to Meizhou Prison, where prisoners of serious crimes are kept. It is our wish that your prison will set an example by adhering to the various regulations on the treatment of inmates there. We hope that your prison will not discriminate against prisoners, including Yang Maodong, because of political reasons. At the same time, we sincerely request that the prison leaders understand that Yang Maodong is not a person who advocates bringing harm to society, and treat him humanely.
We have also learned that Yang Maodong is very concerned about the problem of his daughter Yang Tianjiao's school enrollment. Yang Tianjiao has not been able to move up to the Tianhe District No. 47 Middle School. Because she is now enrolled at a school much farther from home, she makes two trips to-and-from school every day, spending almost two hours on the road. Her parents worry about the traffic and safety issues their 12-year-old daughter has to face. In accordance with the principle of allowing prisoners to serve their sentences free from anxiety, we request that you coordinate with the relevant departments and solve the problem of Yang Tianjiao's school enrollment as soon as possible.
Thank you for your consideration.
Human Rights in China