09/06/2017 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Nearly a month has passed since Chinese Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng was presumably taken by state security from his home near Shaanxi’s Yulin city on the morning of August 13, where he was under house arrest. The whereabouts of Gao, reputed as the “Conscience of China,” are still unknown. As is typical in these cases, he could face torture in a black jail hidden away in rural province.
Gao became the target of Chinese authorities for defending the most vulnerable in China, including Christians, coal miners, and Falun Gong practitioners. He has been kidnapped numerous times, repeatedly endured torture, including beatings, sleep deprivation, and electric shock, and spent many years in jail and solitary confinement. The Chinese government released him in 2014, but placed him under house arrest.
The causes for his disappearance could be many, including President Xi Jinping’s retaliation for Gao’s recently published memoir, in which he heavily criticized the Communist Party and predicted a 2017 collapse of the regime; the upcoming 19th Party Congress, a major power show where Beijing wants no accidents and demands silence from dissidents; or interviews he recently gave to the media in Hong Kong and the US, detailing torture and inhumane treatment.
His older brother, Gao Zhiyi, was brought in by police on August 26 and briefly detained before being released. Zhisheng’s supporters believe that the detention prevented his brother from being inquired as to Zhisheng’s whereabouts. In addition, a Twitter account organized by his supporters called “Gao Zhisheng Caring Group” also recently posted, “So far the family and friends of Gao in China, two have been warned, and seven were summoned (among them two have disappeared) by the authorities. These nine cases are the known ones.”
His disappearance is concerning when details of past torture and abductions, recorded in his books, are taken into account. Years in captivity have decayed his health as he suffers tooth loss and other health problems.
“Now that I know he has disappeared, I am in a state of emotional collapse,” Zhisheng’s wife, Geng He, who currently resides in the US with their children, told Radio Free Asia.
Former Virginia congressman, Frank Wolf, when asked to comment on Mr. Gao’s disappearance, stated, “Mr. Gao was my adoptee for the Defending Freedoms Project five years ago, where I highlighted his case and pushed for his release. It’s truly unfortunate that after years he still doesn’t get to taste freedom. The sudden disappearance of Mr. Gao last month is worrisome in light of Liu Xiaobo’s death and knowing the secret arrests and horrendous torture Chinese government has put dissidents through. I urge the Chinese government to immediately release and sustain freedom of Gao Zhisheng.”
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “It is a shame that a country so eager to prove its legitimacy to stand among the world leaders, continues to violate basic human rights and secretly imprison and torture its own human rights defenders. China will never be looked up to unless it learns to respect its own citizens. Let us not forget the plight of Mr. Gao and many imprisoned Christians who suffer inhumane treatment. We ought to continue to press for their release and keep them and their suffering families in our prayers.”