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Family of Missing Rights Defense Lawyer Gao Zhisheng Arrives in U.S.

March 11, 2009


Rights in China (HRIC) has received news that rights defense lawyer Gao

Zhisheng’s (高智晟) wife and children have safely landed in the United States on March

11, 2009. HRIC warmly welcomes the safe arrival of the Gao family.

Gao is well-known for representing politically sensitive cases and for his outspokenness. In

2005, he wrote a series of open letters to urge President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao

to stop the repression of Falun Gong practitioners and dissidents. In December 2006, Gao

was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on conviction of “inciting subversion of state

power.” Even though the sentence was suspended for five years, the suspension put not only

him, but also his family, under heavy surveillance and frequent harassment. In addition, Gao

was detained multiple times, including several weeks in September 2007 during which he was

savagely tortured, an episode he described in an account that HRIC released on February 8,

2009. On February 4, 2009, Gao was seen forcibly taken from his hometown, Xiaoshibanqiao

Village, in Shenquan Township, Jiaxian County, Shaanxi Province, by more than 10 state

security policemen. He has not been heard from since.

HRIC calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Gao Zhisheng, who has sacrificed

his freedom and suffered torture for defending the rights of others.

Gao Zhisheng’s Background

Voted in 2001 as “one of China's top ten lawyers” by a publication run by the Chinese Ministry

of Justice, Gao is a self-trained legal professional. He represented some of China’s most

vulnerable people, including underground Christians and exploited coal miners. His 2007

detention immediately followed an open letter he sent to the U.S. Congress denouncing the

human rights situation in China and describing his and his family’s treatment by security

forces. In his account that HRIC made public, Gao describes violent beatings, repeated

electric shocks to his genitals, and having his eyes burnt by lit cigarettes. After he was

released, acquaintances described him as seeming to be “a broken man,” both physically and


In June 2007, Gao received the Courageous Advocacy Award of the American Board of Trial Advocates

(ABOTA). His memoirs, A China More Just, were published in English the same


For more information on Gao Zhisheng, see:

Gao Zhisheng’s account of his September 2007 kidnapping and torture:

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