Guo was detained as he prepared to join a hunger strike by the lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who was later jailed. Guo was formally arrested on charges related to his prolific writing for U.S.-based Chinese-language Web sites Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum) and Epoch Times.
The Cangzhou Intermediate People’s Court tried Guo on charges of “inciting subversion of state authority” on September 12, 2006. He was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison, plus an additional three years’ deprivation of political rights.
In the case presented to the prosecutor on June 16, 2006, the Cangzhou Public Security Bureau cited several online essays as proof of Guo’s crimes, including one titled “Letting Some of the People First Get Rich While Others Cannot Make a Living,” in which he accused the Communist Party government of using its policies to support an “autocratic” and “despotic” regime. Guo was critical of corruption and widespread poverty in the country.
In his defense, Guo argued that his criticism of the Communist Party was protected by the Chinese constitution. In March 2007, an appeals court upheld Guo’s conviction.
Three months later, Shandong provincial authorities refused to renew the law license of Guo’s lawyer, press freedom advocate Li Jianqiang, who also represented imprisoned journalists Zhang Jianhong and Yang Tongyan.
Guo is married and has a teenage son. Guo’s wife, Zhao Changqing, told CPJ in April 2008 that she had been unable to visit her husband due to the high cost of traveling to the prison. She confirmed that he had suffered beatings that led to a permanent leg injury. The Independent Chinese PEN Center reported in 2009 that he remained dependent on crutches and risked losing the use of a leg altogether. He also suffered from high blood pressure and chest pains.