Chinese human rights defender Gao Zhisheng was reported missing by his brother on August 13th. Gao Zhisheng has been kept under close surveillance by Yulin authorities following his release from detention on August 8th 2014.
Gao Zhisheng is a human rights lawyer who regularly takes on cases involving persecution of religious minorities, including Falun Gong practitioners and those associated with the unofficial ‘’house church’’ movement. For this, and other human rights defense work, Gao Zhisheng has been forcibly disappeared a number of times, and brutally tortured. His law practice was shut down in 2005 and the following year he was placed under house arrest having been found guilty of ‘’inciting subversion of state power’’.
Gao’s brother reported him missing following a visit to the defender’s home in Yulin City, Shaanxi Province. On August 13th 2017, at approximately 8:00am, Gao Zhisheng’s brother visited the human rights defender’s home and notified local police when he was unable to find Gao Zhisheng. Local police failed to locate the human rights defender in the vicinity. Gao Zhisheng’s wife, who fled to the United States in 2009 after repeated instances of harassment and abuse by Chinese authorities, has also reported being unable to reach her husband by phone. No news of Gao Zhisheng’s whereabouts have been reported as of August 16th 2017.
International human rights organization Front Line Defenders has reported on previous instances of the forced disappearance of Gao Zhisheng, who has been held alternatively under residential surveillance, incarceration and incommunicado detention in black jails since 2006. In August 2014, Gao Zhisheng had spent eight years in and out of detention, during which time he was subjected to torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment.
In June 2017, Gao Zhisheng’s written memoirs of his detention and torture by Chinese authorities were published in Taiwan, where local defenders following Gao Zhisheng’s case have expressed concern that his present disappearance may be an act of retaliation by Chinese authorities, in response to this publication.
Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned by the disappearance of Gao Zhisheng. Given the past instances of forced disappearance and incommunicado detention, Front Line Defenders is concerned that the human rights defender may be detained by the authorities, in which case we urge Gao Zhisheng’s arresting authorities to notify his family of his whereabouts and the reason for his arrest, as is required under Chinese law. If not, Front Line Defenders urges Chinese authorities to take all necessary steps to investigate Gao Zhisheng’s missing persons case and effect his secure return to his family.