Disappeared human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng has been held by state security somewhere in China for over a year.
Gao, 54, is believed to have been taken from Shaanxi to Beijing by police mid-August last year. It was the eighth time the twice Nobel Peace Prize nominee has been disappeared by the state apparatus in 12 years. The first time Gao was forcible disappeared was in 2006.
His wife, Geng He, told RFA that Gao’s brother has searched for him, visiting various police departments were he was told very little.
“Over the past year, Gao’s older brother has done so much to try to find out Gao Zhisheng’s whereabouts, but he hasn’t been able to get any reliable information this whole time,” said Geng, who fled China with their two children in 2009.
“I spoke with his brother [the other day] and asked him if there was news, and he said no, nothing had changed,” she said. “We have no idea where he really is. They’re never going to tell us the truth.”
A year ago today, China's most famous human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, disappeared once again, and is believed to be held in detention by the Chinese authorities, in an unknown location. Join CSW and others in campaigning for Gao's release. https://t.co/OMFkoaOm2D #FreeGao pic.twitter.com/VeMHQuw8DZ
— Benedict Rogers 羅傑斯 (@benedictrogers) August 13, 2018
Geng said that police are intimidating Gao’s family in China.
“His family in Shaanxi runs a small business, and since Gao Zhisheng went missing, the Chinese government has levied fines of more than 200,000 yuan (U.S. $29,320) on his family and forced them to stop operating for 10 days,” she said. “They are treating his family as ‘guilty by association.'”
Geng said her family in China have also been pressured.
“My side of the family dare not even contact me, and they’ve told me not to call them. Relatives tell me that their ID cards have been confiscated, and they’re not allowed to leave town,” Geng said. “They also make them sign a report every month at the police station.”
Watch Gao’s daughter Grace at the Oslo Freedom Forum tell the story of her father’s arrest in 2009 and the subsequent separation of her family.
Gao was released from prison in 2014 and was being held under house arrest as he lived with his brother in Shaanxi Province before he was disappeared last year.
His wife, Geng, told RFA that due to his mistreatment while in prison, many of his teeth were missing, but state officials did not allow him to visit a dentist or doctor. These types of restrictions did not stop him from writing many articles about human rights, Geng said.
“I was always very moved to read these articles when I saw them, or when they were sent to me by friends,” she said.
“I really felt that he was sacrificing his life to expose the workings of the Chinese state, to expose cases of human rights violations in China.”
Despite being under constant surveillance in Shaanxi, Gao also managed to write a manuscript about his three earlier years in prison where he was tortured. Somehow he managed to get his manuscript out of China. It was published in Taiwan in 2016.
Gao Zhisheng's book discusses his time in prison, and predictions for China's future, his daughter Grace Geng said pic.twitter.com/1URWygJEiJ
— Mike Forsythe 傅才德 (@PekingMike) June 14, 2016
Like many human rights lawyers in China, Gao had long earned the ire of the communist authorities for providing legal assistance to China’s most vulnerable, including house Christians, petitioners, victims of state corruption, and Falun Gong practitioners.
Gao was recently awarded the Shahbaz Bhatti Freedom Award for his commitment to China’s religious freedom and human rights. It was presented to his wife at an awards ceremony held in California on August 29.
Where is #GaoZhisheng? In an egregious case, this persecuted Chinese human rights lawyer went missing since 8/13/2017, reportedly detained by police, whereabouts still unknown. 8/30 is Int'l Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. @Genghe1 @tengbiao @chenguangcheng @hu_jia pic.twitter.com/1Xdol4jvdl
— CHRD人权捍卫者 (@CHRDnet) August 30, 2018