China: activists demand search for missing detained rights advocate

Chinese lawyers and US-based rights group ChinaAid Jan. 15 called on Beijing police to conduct a search for missing Chinese rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng. Police reported the previous day that Gao, who has been in police custody since last February, went missing in September. Gao’s brother, Gao Zhiyi, said he was told that police believe his brother “got lost and went missing while out on a walk”—from a high-security prison. Rights groups suspect Gao died while under torture.

Gao drew international attention in September 2007 when he wrote a letter to the US Congress requesting assistance in improving human rights in China. Gao, who has also defended Christians and coal miners in China, claimed that he was tortured after his arrest in 2007. Gao was originally part of the Chinese Communist Party and handled prominent cases involving the outlawed Falun Gong movement, but fell into disfavor with the government in 2006 when he was convicted of subversion and placed under house arrest. (Jurist, Jan. 15)

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  1. China: missing human rights lawyer speaks to journalists
    Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng spoke to a reporter from Reuters March 28 verifying that he is alive and is living in Wutai mountain in Shanxi province. Gao, who had been missing for more than a year, said he had been released last year and that he wanted to “live a quiet life for a while.” Another human rights lawyer, Li Heping, said that he had also spoken to Gao and confirmed his identity. Gao still appeared to be under some form of restraint in his interview, however, since he would not give details of his location nor did he answer any detailed questions about his current situation. (Jurist, March 28)

  2. Interview: China tortured leading rights lawyer

    In his first interview since being released from prison to house arrest in August 2014, leading Chinese rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng told the Associated Press that he was subject to torture. Zhisheng revealed that while he was held in a Chinese prison from 2010-14 he was tortured with an electric baton to his face and spent three years in solitary confinement. Zhisheng is a prominent figure for the civil rights movement in China, advocating constitutional reform, and defending property rights and political and religious dissenters. His wife and two children fled China around the time he first disappeared and now live in the US, but the Nobel Peace Prize nominee vowed to never leave China despite the hardships and having to live apart from his family. (Jurist, Sept. 24)