China: Pro-democracy campaigner sentenced to 6 years in jail

Police officers stand guard outside the court house where Guo stood trial last year.Reuters

A Chinese human rights lawyer has received a six year jail sentence in the midst of a crack down on human rights across the country.

Guo Feixiong, birth name Yang Maodong, was sentenced by the Tianhe District People's Court in Guangdong on November 27.

In addition to his original charge of "gathering crowds to disturb public order", the court also convicted him of a last-minute additional charge, "picking quarrels and provoking troubles".

Consular officials from the US, UK, Canadian and German embassies were barred from entering the courthouse during the proceedings.

A dissident writer and "barefoot lawyer" who campaigns on behalf of marginalised groups, Guo has been imprisoned in China before. He was reportedly beaten on multiple occasions while in custody in 2005 and 2006, and served a five year sentence between 2007 and 2011.

According to advocacy organisation Human Rights in China, Guo was subjected to numerous acts of torture while in prison, including being interrogated for 13 consecutive days and nights without sleep and hung from the ceiling by his arms and legs while officers used an electric baton on his genitals.

Despite this treatment, upon his release in 2011 Guo said that he had not been deterred from continuing to fight for human rights in China. "I don't care who did what to me in the past... I want to work hard to help bring about tolerance and reconciliation," he said. "I am filled with optimism for the future."

He was detained again in August 2013, and tried in August and November of last year, but no verdict was found. Following the announcement of his sentence last week, Guo thanked his friends who had acted as witnesses during the trial.

Guo is a member of the China 18, a group of human rights advocates who have faced imprisonment, harassment and torture for their work in promoting democracy and religious freedom. According to China Aid, he has also worked for Gao Zhisheng, a human rights lawyer who has served several jail sentences and who recently spoke out about his alleged torture in prison.

Human rights groups have long highlighted extensive abuses in China under President Xi Jinping's leadership, particularly the suppression of religious freedom. According to Amnesty International, 245 human rights lawyers have been targeted since July; 30 of whom remain missing or in police custody.