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Demand Information about Lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s Whereabouts
Prominent Beijing human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who was serving a suspended sentence, was forcibly taken away in his hometown in Shaanxi province by public security officers on 4 February 2009, and he has been missing since then. Facing the pressure from groups and individuals around the world who are concerned about Lawyer Gao, the Chinese government has recently been forced to respond. In reply to a letter from Senator Byron Dorgan, chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong recently issued the first official letter about Gao, stating that Gao is “currently serving probation” and “the public security authority has not taken any mandatory action against him.” We cannot accept the former, as the Chinese government has never been able to state clearly what crime Gao had committed during probation; and the latter is incorrect, as Gao was last seen being hauled away by public security officials.
In 2004 and 2005, Lawyer Gao wrote three open letters to the National People’s Congress, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabo demanding that the Chinese government should stop persecuting religious believers. On 4 November 2005, his law firm was banned from operation for a year by the Beijing Judicial Bureau, giving absurd reasons, and soon after his legal practice license was suspended. On 4 February 2006, aware of legal rights defender Guo Feiziong’s being violently beaten up by Guangdong police officers, Lawyer Gao staged a hunger strike for 48 hours to protest against the illegal persecution of human rights activists by the authorities. The hunger strike was echoed by mainland and overseas groups and individuals who are concerned about human rights in China, and a worldwide relay hunger strike was started to show support for the rights defense movement in China. On 24 February 2006, Lawyer Gao was summoned by the Beijing Judicial Bureau for interrogation. On 4 December, he was convicted of “incitement to subvert state power” and was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, suspended for five years, with political right stripped for one year.
Lawyer Gao and his family have been subjected to surveillance and threats to their personal safety for a long time. His family was under 24-hour surveillance and subject to harassment; since his conviction, Lawyer Gao and his family were under house arrest and there was always news about Lawyer Gao being subjected to various forms and degrees of insults and torture. His daughter was escorted to school by public security officers. She was warned not to make friends with her classmates and was verbally insulted. Since he was taken away from his home in Shaanxi on 4 February 2009, Gao has been missing. However, fortunately, his wife and two children managed to leave China and arrived in the United States on 11 March this year.
Albert Ho Chun-yan, chairman of the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, will continue his 14th weekly 24-hour fasting and John Clancey, international secretary of the Concern Group, will continue his 12-hour fasting on Wednesday. We call on everyone from different areas to join us, and to support Lawyer Gao and other mainland human rights lawyers who are being subjected to repression.
We urge the Chinese government to immediately:
1. reveal where attorney Gao is being detained;
2. give particulars about why attorney Gao is being detained; and
3. let Lawyer Gao’s relatives, friends, and representatives from non-governmental organizations visit him.
Hong Kong Christian Institute
China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group
China Affairs Group, Democratic Party of Hong Kong
Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese
Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China
Youth Group of Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China
17 June 2009