Chinese rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng missing again, last seen with police
On April 6, Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng thought he could return to a normal life after 13 months of imprisonment. But his “release” was a farce to please the international media, and on April 20 Gao disappeared again, last seen with four policemen, Compass Direct News (CDN) reported.
Gao, a self-taught lawyer and Communist Party member until 2005 was once viewed by China’s Ministry of Justice as among their top 10 lawyers, according to CDN.
Gao defended some of China’s most vulnerable people, including workers seeking redress, underground Christians and the banned Falungong spiritual movement, according to Telegraph.co.uk.
In a press conference held shortly after his April 6 release, Gao said he wanted to be reunited with his family, who fled to the United States in January 2009 over his daughter’s attempted suicides when she was blocked from entering school.
Meanwhile, Gao hoped to visit his in-laws in Urumqi, according to CDN. Gao would no longer continue his legal work, he said, and he could not comment on his treatment while in captivity. Now, no one knows where Gao is.
On Feb. 4 last year Gao was taken from his Shaanxi home and held incommunicado for 13 months. Chinese authorities filed no formal charges and issued no arrest warrant while he was jailed, Telegraph.co.uk reported.
The Telegraph quoted friends and colleagues who said that when he was released on April 6 he was still being tailed by police. On April 30 Gao visited his father-in-law in the company of four police officers. He just spent one night there before the police took him out again.
Gao’s brief release from jail is believed to be in response to demands by western governments and international rights groups who repeatedly demanded to know his whereabouts and sought his release. It is believed the police feared Gao would talk of his treatment while he was incarcerated, according to the Telegraph and CDN.
In 2005 Gao wrote open letters to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao accusing the government of torturing Falungong members. As a result his law license was revoked and his law firm shut down.
In 2007 Gao was detained, tortured and threatened with death. His captors also threatened to harm and torture his wife and children if he spoke of his treatment in jail. Under duress, Gao “confessed” and was under house arrest, the CDN said.
An AFP report said human rights lawyers in China are constantly harassed and threatened. For example:
- Tang Jitian, 41, lost his livelihood, rarely sees his family, and must constantly change homes because authorities pressure his landlords. He has defended the Falungong, people who were displaced from their lands, and hepatitis B carriers who are subject to discrimination.
- Authorities once set up video cameras outside Tang’s home in Jilin, filming through the windows.
- Tang and colleague Liu Wei, in her 30s, have had their licenses revoked while defending Falungong. In April last year they walked out of court due to constant interruption of their defense by the judge.
- A legal research center for human rights was shut down on July 2009, and the Beijing Justice Bureau suspended the licenses of 53 lawyers.
- Authorities set restrictions on lawyers taking up cases related to the 2009 protests in Urumqi.
- New rules will be enforced in June this year stipulating punishments for lawyers and their firms that are so vaguely written that they can be arbitrarily interlpreted in terms of disciplinary measures.
China foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said last week that attorneys are free to work as they please. “Chinese citizens enjoy their lawful rights and interests, which are also guaranteed by the laws and the Constitution,” Yu said, according to the AFP.
In the past few years, the number of rights lawyers in China has soared — from about 10 in 2007 to around 100 today in Beijing alone.