GAO ZHISHENG – human and civil rights lawyer (Update)

Gao Zhisheng, human and civil rights lawyer who recently urged Chinese leaders to end their persecution of Falun Gong, officially declared his resignation from the Chinese Communist Party.

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities been harassing and threatening renowned Beijing human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng ever since he started defending Falun Gong practitioners in 2004.

In his investigative reports, Gao brought to light the severe and tragic persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. In response, the CCP escalated its suppression and forced Gao to close his law office in November 2005.

After investigating his family, the CCP began questioning the Beijing Public Safety Department but were unable to find any incriminating information to frame Gao with.

Gao began receiving strange calls and messages on his phone from people trying (unsuccessfully) to set him up and those trying (unsuccessfully) to seduce him. Epoch Times columnist Gong Ping said that the CCP suppresses dissidents in shameless ways. In order to avoid negative public opinion and international condemnation, the CCP often tries to frame dissidents with carefully designed traps involving prostitution, tax evasion, drug smuggling, or disturbing public order and then arrests them on civil or criminal offenses.

On January 17, 2006, Amnesty International reports that Mr. Zhisheng appeared to have survived an attempt on his life after an incident with several vehicles (including one that is military) during a drive in the city of Beijing. A car driving in front appeared to have stopped suddenly while Mr. Zhisheng was driving and he just avoided colliding with it. Upon the halt, he stepped out of his vehicle and reported that the car then began to move towards him, forcing him to jump out of the way. A military vehicle was following Mr. Zhisheng along the way. Therefore Mr.Zhisheng suggested that there is reason to believe that this incident is linked to the authorities. Both vehicles had their license plates blocked and left the scene immediately after.

On August 15, 2006, Mr. Zhisheng was detained while visiting his sister in the Shandong Province. He has been held incommunicado for that time period until his official formal arrest. He has also been held at an unknown location without any access to the outside world. His charges were issued on September 21, 2006, but the Beijing municipal procurator only informed his family and lawyer of his charges on October 12, 2006. In addition, his lawyer has been denied access to Mr. Zhisheng based on the fact that his case involves “state secrets”. It is difficult to identify what information is part of “state secret” as it is an abstract and vague idea in Chinese law. Therefore, such definition is up to interpretation and can be used for political reasons.

Since the events on August, 15, 2006, Mr. Zhisheng’s wife Geng He and their children had been put under surveillance. The surveillance tightened when the formal arrests was issued. Mrs. Geng has been warned to not speak with anyone (including the media) in exchange for an opportunity to meet with her husband. In addition to having their daily activities monitored, their 13-year-old daughter has been escorted by the police to school and also monitored throughout the day. An incident happened when she refused to be escorted home in a police car. She reported that the police dragged her into the car causing bruises on her legs and neck.

On October 23, 2006, Amnesty International issued a report regarding Mr. Zhisheng’s arrest. They expressed concerns regarding the formal charges laid against him and fears for his safety in these events. Amnesty believes that Mr. Zhisheng’s charges is linked to his defense of activists, and his publication of an open letter calling for religious freedom and the end to “barbaric” prosecution of the Falun Gong spiritual movement which has been banned in China. In the same report, Amnesty also expressed concerns for the broad definition of laws such as “subversion” and “stealing state secrets”. These laws can be easily abused and used to detain personnel who are linked to legitimate human rights activities.

On April 2007, Mr. Zhisheng reported that during his four month detention, he (along with other Chinese activists) had been handcuffed and forced to sit in or cross-legged for extended periods and had bright lights shone at him. He explained the only reason he confessed to the “crime” was for the protection of his family.

On September 28, 2007, Amnesty issued another report expressing concerns that Mr. Zhisheng has not been seen since September 22, 2007. None of his family has seen him and Amnesty believes that it is possible that he has been detained by members of the State Security Bureau. There has been no official confirmation made by the Chinese authorities regarding his whereabouts.

A Beijing-based human rights activist Qi Zhiyong claimed that Mr. Zhisheng was taken on September 22, 2007 by around ten officers in plainclothes and several police vehicles in front of his house. Another close contact of Mr. Zhisheng’s, Hu Jia reported the possibility that he might not have been taken away by the State Security Bureau or the National Security Unit or the Beijing Public Security Bureau, no one saw him being taken away. There have been unsuccessful attempts at contacting his wife since, therefore it is believed that she has been banned from using the phone.

Amnesty believes that this latest detention of Mr. Zhisheng is linked to an open letter issued to the United States’ Congress on September 13, 2007 regarding the 2008 Olympics. Mr. Zhisheng stated that with China’s deteriorating human rights situation, he cannot support the Olympics. Following the letter, on September 16, 2007, a group of officers from the National Security Unit in Beijing stormed and searched Mr. Zhisheng’s home. In addition, a committee was formed by the Public Security Bureau to deal with Mr. Zhisheng’s case.

Early November 2007, Mr. Zhisheng was brought back to his flat in Beijing. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in a report issued on February 3, 2009 suggested that he had been subject to ill-treatment and had been beaten during this last detention. During the 14 days that Mr. Zhisheng had been detained, the Epoch Times reported that “he was stripped naked and laid on the floor. He was hit by electron batons at all places on his body including at his genitals, even sticking toothpicks into his genitals. When Gao regained consciousness after being comatose, he found his himself soaked in urine.”

The Observatory also reports that once again Mr. Zhisheng has been held incommunicado by the security forces. He was last heard from on January 19, 2009. His location and whereabouts remains unknown. The Observatory expresses these concerns that these tactics used on Mr. Zhisheng is a strategy sanctioning his human rights activities and fears for his safety.

The Observatory also reminds the National People’s Congress amended the Chinese Constitution in 2004 to include “the State respects and safeguards human rights” and that in April 2006, China submitted a document to the UN in order to support its candidacy to the Human Rights Council’s first election , in which it affirmed that the amendment to the Constitution was aiming at “defining the position of human rights in the overall national development strategy”. The Observatory further wishes to point out that, as a member of the Human Rights Council, China “shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” .

Latest reports coming out of these events suggests that on February 4, 2009, Mr. Zhisheng has been taken away by local policemen. A relative of Mr. Zhisheng’s spoke to a RFA reporter, stating that “At about 3 or 4 a.m., there were over ten people with some local policemen that rushed in. They did not say anything but took him away. We went to visit him and we were not allowed to see him. Many followed us. The second day, we went to the county town of Jia County” . The same relative also told the reporter that Mr. Zhisheng was still in town the following day and he went along with some other relatives of his to send Mr. Zhisheng some clothes, however, they were prohibited from seeing him.

The Epoch Times reported those two weeks prior to this latest disappearance, the police ordered Mr. Zhisheng to leave Beijing and return to his hometown of Shanxi to spend the Chinese New Year .

The Observatory urges the People’s Republic of China to guarantee the safety of Mr. Zhisheng and immediately locate his whereabouts and his subsequent release. Also the observatory asks for an end to the harassment to human rights defenders throughout the People’s Republic of China. It asks the government to comply with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, especially Article 1 which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” and Article 12.2, which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.


Letter by Clive Ansley sent on April 7, 2005.