Tortured Chinese Dissident Goes on Trial

July 9, 2007 Updated: July 9, 2007

BEIJING—A Chinese dissident, whose wife sought a U.N. investigation into accusations of torture, went on trial on Monday charged with illegal business activity, a human rights watchdog said.

Guo Feixiong, 41, was arrested in September in connection with a book he edited about a political scandal in the northeastern city of Shenyang. He maintains his innocence.

The trial of Guo, also known as Yang Maodong, lasted 3-½ hours but it was unclear when a verdict or sentence would be announced, the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in a faxed statement, quoting the lawyer.

Guo's wife and brother attended the trial in Guangzhou, capital of the southern province of Guangdong, the centre said, but gave no further details.

In June, Guo's wife, Zhang Qing, asked the New York-based Human Rights in China to forward a letter to Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture, in which she accused her husband's interrogators of repeatedly torturing him to extract a confession.

Fellow activist Hu Jia said in an e-mail that Guo planned to retract his confession on grounds that he was tortured.

His wife and lawyer could not be contacted. A court official, reached by telephone, declined to comment.

Guo had staged a hunger strike for a total of 40 days in protest against torture.

Human Rights in China has said tactics used by police have included shackling Guo's arms and legs to a bed for weeks at a time and extended periods of sleep deprivation.

Guo experienced the “worst treatment” after he was transferred to a detention centre in Shenyang, where interrogators shackled his hands behind his back, sat him on a stool and applied a high-voltage electric rod to his genitals, Human Rights in China said.

He had been heavily involved in publicising rural protests in Guangdong before he was taken into police custody, providing legal advice to disgruntled farmers.

Guo was held for over three months in 2005 for trying to help residents of Taishi village in Guangdong to vote out their elected chief over allegations of corruption in a land sale.

Prior to his arrest, Guo was briefly detained last year for attempting to organise a hunger strike to protest against his beatings in Guangzhou by thugs believed to have been hired by Taishi village officials.