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HRIC Statement on Gao Zhisheng's Sentence

December 22, 2006

The suspended sentence handed down today against rights defense lawyer Gao Zhisheng comes at the end of more than four months of detention, periods of effective house arrest since early this year, and physical abuse and harassment of Gao and his family. It is also the culmination of a deeply flawed, non-transparent, and politicized judicial process on a serious charge of "incitement of subversion."

This "leniency" should be clearly read in three ways:

  • In the intensification of international attention during the final run-up to the Olympics, the Chinese government cannot ignore international condemnation of its violations of human rights.

  • The sentence suspension reflects the weak evidentiary base and politicized nature of the charge.

  • The five-year suspended sentence and deprivation of political rights for one year is, in effect, a sword suspended over Gao’s head, with a chilling effect on future activities.