Today marks one year since Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), one of China’s most outspoken rights defense lawyers, was seen forcibly taken from his hometown, Xiaoshibanqiao Village, Shaanxi Province, by more than 10 state security policemen. Despite international attention on the case, Chinese authorities have failed to disclose his whereabouts or condition and have ignored all inquiries from Gao’s family.
Over the past few months, the authorities, when pressed, have made three references to Gao: a policeman in Beijing said in September 2009 that Gao “has gone missing,” while Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in January 2010 that Gao is “where he should be,” and in early February, “I don’t know where he is. China has 1.3 billion people.”
“The Chinese government claims that China is a country ruled by law, a responsible great power … But when they say ‘he is where he should be,’ they are in fact avoiding responsibility,” said Geng He (耿和), Gao’s wife. “In fact, he is not where he should be. Where this place is, no one in the world, except the police, knows.”
Geng He escaped China in January 2009 with their daughter and son and arrived in the United States two months later. She said that the children continue to suffer great psychological stress, which recently resulted in their daughter’s hospitalization.
Geng He said, “If there is no place in China for Gao, then return him to his family. He is the spiritual pillar of our family. Please free him so that our family can be together.”
“The Chinese authorities’ actions demonstrate their complete disregard for international law, Chinese law, and humanitarian concerns,” said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China. “These are the actions of thugs, not of a responsible member of the international community.”
HRIC urges the Chinese government to inform Gao’s family members of Gao’s status immediately and to assure his safety and security.
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 convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment with a five-year suspension and one-year deprivation of political rights. During this period, Gao and his family were under heavy surveillance and subjected to 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 released in February 2009.
For more information on Gao Zhisheng, see:
Gao Zhisheng’s account of his September 2007 kidnapping and torture: