U.N. experts urge China to release jailed hunger striker

GENEVA (Reuters) - A Chinese rights activist whose health is deteriorating after a three-month hunger strike should be released and given medical care, United Nations human rights experts said on Thursday. Guo Feixiong, the pen name of Yang Maodong, was sentenced to six years in prison by a court in southern China on Nov. 27, amid a crackdown on human rights advocates, his lawyer said at the time. Guo was accused of "gathering crowds to disturb social order" during a peaceful demonstration outside a newspaper in January 2013. "We urge the Chinese authorities to release Mr. Guo and recognize the important contribution of human rights defenders in upholding constitutional values in China," the experts said in a statement, saying his conviction was related to "peaceful and legitimate human rights activities" concerning censorship. They voiced concern at "repeated incidents of degrading and humiliating treatment suffered by Mr Guo in detention, both at the hands of other inmates and prison guards at Yangchun Prison in Guangdong province". Guo, 50, has been on a hunger strike for almost three months, demanding to be transferred to another prison where he would be free from ill-treatment, they said. His mistreatment has included "sleep deprivation, harassment, and humiliating medical procedures filmed by prison officials for public release," they said. The independent experts included U.N. special rapporteurs on human rights defenders, on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of opinion and expression, torture and health. Activists and Western countries have expressed repeated concern about a widening campaign by President Xi Jinping to quash dissent among academics, journalists and activists. A Chinese court jailed prominent human rights lawyer Zhou Shifeng for seven years on Thursday for subverting the government, state media said, the latest in a string of convictions linked to an unprecedented crackdown on legal defenders. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Larry King)