Hunger strike leaves Taishi rights activist ill

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 September, 2005, 12:00am

A rights activist detained for advising villagers on their fight to oust Taishi village chief Chen Jinsheng has fallen ill after going on a hunger strike for more than a week, his lawyer said yesterday.

Yang Maodong , better known as Guo Feixiong , was receiving medical treatment at Sha Wan police station in Panyu district. He began his hunger strike at the start of his detention this month, and vowed to continue after he had recovered.

Mr Guo's lawyer, Tang Jinling , had his first meeting with his client in a custody room and said he was worried about his health. 'He is thin and looked very sick. He told me that he had lost at least 10kg,' Mr Tang said.

Mr Tang said Mr Guo might be detained for up to six months and his client had been transferred into criminal custody.

Mr Guo was arrested for 'disturbing social stability by mass gathering' on September 13 - the day after more than 1,000 armed police stormed the government office in Taishi and took away dozens of villagers.

About 1,500 villagers had launched protests, including petitions and hunger strikes, to remove Mr Chen over allegations that he was misusing public funds.

The protesters managed to extract a promise from the local government to start the process to oversee Mr Chen's dismissal.

The Taishi model was hailed by outside media as a test case for mainland grass-roots democracy, but came to a bitter end after the seven-member election committee was forced to resign and all villagers were threatened.

Guo Yan , the lawyer for village leader Feng Qiusheng , said at least a dozen villagers were still in custody. 'We can't plead for the other villagers because we can't get their contact information or that of their relatives.'

She said the villagers had been threatened by security guards to prevent them talking to outsiders.