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Wife of Renowned Chinese Activist Dies in US After Beijing Denies Reunion

Alina Wang
A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights, politics, tech, and society.
Juliet Wei
Juliet Wei covers China news and U.S.-China relations and has worked as a correspondent with Senate and House Correspondent Credential at Washington DC. She holds an M.A. in Specialized Journalism from the University of Southern California.
Published: January 12, 2022
Guo Feixiong Zhang Qing china human rights activist wife
Chinese human rights defender Yang Maodong (also known as Guo Feixiong) and his late wife Zhang Qing (Image: via WeiQuan web)

Family, friends of jailed human rights advocate Guo Feixiong urge communist authorities for his release, freedom of travel so he can attend funeral

After being separated from her husband since he was arrested in 2006, Zhang Qing battled cancer for over a year before succumbing to the disease on Jan. 10. Zhang’s dying wish was to be reunited with her husband, renowned human rights activist Guo Feixiong.

That wish went unfulfilled as Guo — whose real name is Yang Maodong — was arrested in China on Dec. 5, 2021 and was being held in an undisclosed detention center at the time of her death. Guo was denied the right to leave the country multiple times due to his human rights work defending Falun Gong practitioners and other disenfranchised groups in China. 

Guo’s sister Yang Maoping announced in a tweet that Zhang had passed away in Germantown, Maryland on Monday morning and is survived by the couple’s son and daughter.

A matter of basic freedom and humanity’

Chen Guangcheng, a Chinese dissident-in-exile, urged the international community to press the Chinese government in allowing Guo to return to the U.S. to deal with his wife’s death.

“Guo Feixiong should be free,” Chen, who escaped the communist regime in 2012 and is now a Distinguished Fellow at the Catholic University of America, told Vision Times. “It’s a fundamental human right for him to come to the United States to deal with his wife’s affairs. It is a matter of basic freedom and humanity.”

“Chinese Communist Party secretly abducted Guo Feixiong. It is inhumane. We call on Guo Feixiong to be free as soon as possible and come to the United States.” Chen Guangcheng added.

Last January, Zhang, who was a U.S. permanent resident, was found to be suffering from late stage intestinal cancer and pleaded for her husband’s return. 

After being notified of his wife’s situation, Guo made every effort to be reunited with her. However, authorities in China continually denied him the right to leave the country on grounds of “endangering national security.” Guo was blocked from boarding a flight to the U.S. from Shanghai Pudong International Airport in January and told that an active travel ban against him was still in place.

He then announced an indefinite hunger strike and appealed for the international community to help him reunite with Zhang on humanitarian grounds. However, on Dec. 5, Guo disappeared after posting an open letter on Nov. 29 appealing to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to let him join his wife in the U.S.

Guo has not been heard of or seen since then. 

On Dec. 2, 2021, the U.S. State Department called on Chinese authorities to release Guo Feixiong so he could help care for his wife. A State Department spokesman told The Epoch Times in an email that “We are deeply concerned about Chinese human rights activist Guo Feixiong (aka Yang Maodong) being detained and restricted from leaving the country.”

Activists in China known to disappear

This isn’t the first time activists in China have been arrested or made to “disappear” as authorities there has a long history of imposing arbitrary restrictions on freedom of movement, including both domestic and international travel bans. 

Although the Chinese constitution states that its citizens enjoy many basic rights as those guaranteed by the law in democratic countries, in practice, the regime overrides Chinese law –  and most attorneys, judges, and prosecutors defer to the Party line in sensitive cases.

Renowned Chinese Lawyer Tang Jitian Disappears After Years of Standing Up for Falun Gong, Other Persecuted Groups

Guo is a well-known human rights activist and independent writer in China. He participated in the student movement that took place in Tiananmen square in 1989 and was also a vital participant in the country’s pro-democracy groups. 

According to NGO Front Line Defenders, Guo Feixiong provided legal assistance and organizational support to residents in the Taishi village of Guangdong in 2005. As a result of his involvement in this case, he was held by police for three months without an official charge and went on a hunger strike to protest his unlawful detainment. 

Guo was also arrested four times by government authorities and spent a total of 11 years in prison over two occasions. His wife left China with their two children and immigrated to the U.S., where they were granted asylum in 2009. The couple has been separated for 15 years.