Amnesty International is continuing its campaign on behalf of Chinese lawyer Gao Zhisheng and needs your help. One of China’s most respected human rights lawyers, he has suffered enforced disappearance, imprisonment, torture and illegal house arrest because of his work.
Not so long ago, Gao Zhisheng, 48, was named among China’s top ten lawyers and celebrated by the government. However, as he became increasingly outspoken about human rights abuses, authorities tried to silence him.
In 2005, after being denied access to the courts for taking on politically sensitive cases, Mr. Gao wrote open letters to both the National People’s Congress and the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, calling for an end to the torture of members of persecuted religious groups.
As a result, they revoked his license, then they closed his law practice, and in August 2006 Gao was taken away by police for the first time. In all, he has been abducted three times and has spent 36 months in detention.
The second time, he was tortured relentlessly.
“His guards beat him with electric batons, shone lamps in his eyes, chained him to an iron chair, and burnt his dear face and body with cigarettes. They blew smoke in his eyes for hour after hour until they were so swollen he could no longer see,” said Gao’s wife, Geng He, who is living in exile in the United States.
Gao disappeared in February 2009, after police officers took him from his family home, where he was being held under illegal house arrest. For nearly two years his family didn’t know if he was dead or alive.
Yet Gao refused to be broken. So the authorities turned their attention to his wife and children. They cut off the water supply to their home and blocked them from leaving the house, denying them food or water for 36 hours.
“Tianyu, my little son, was just three years old and I will never forget his tears and pain as the hunger set in… my heart was twisted like a piece of dough,” recalled his wife.
When the torturers told Gao of his family’s suffering, it was more than he could bear. He signed a confession and was released. Yet even then the harassment continued, and in February 2009 the police took Gao Zhisheng away again. His wife and children have not seen him since.
Gao mysteriously reappeared on March 28th 2010, after a year of intense international pressure. He was briefly allowed to return to Beijing. In April 2010, Mr. Gao was instructed by government agents to visit his father-in-law in far Western China. According to Freedom Now, which represents Gao on a pro-bono basis, on April 20th 2010, security agents told Mr. Gao to return to Beijing. However, Mr. Gao never arrived there.
For more than 20 months, Mr. Gao was held incommunicado. On December 16th 2011, the Beijing People’s First Intermediate Court ordered that Mr. Gao be imprisoned for three years to serve the full sentence imposed on December 22th 2006. State media reported that the Court withdrew Mr. Gao’s probation—set to expire the following week—claiming without explanation that Mr. Gao had “seriously violated probation rules a number of times.”
Mr. Gao is currently imprisoned at the Shaya County Prison in a remote area of the Xinjian region in Western China. His brother and father-in-law were allowed a rare visit to meet with him in March 2012; Radio Free Asia had this exclusive.
In September, the U.S. Senate submitted a resolution calling for the unconditional and immediate release of Gao.
Amnesty and Freedom Now are monitoring and reporting on his case so the world knows about him. They’re lobbying the United Nations and national governments to speak out on China’s human rights record and collecting thousands of messages calling on the Chinese Premier to release Gao Zhisheng immediately. To send Gao a message of support, visit Amnesty’s appeal page here.
To learn more, check out this video from Amnesty about limits on free speech for Gao, Ai Weiwei, and many others speaking out in China: