Monday, March 29, 2010


In February 2009 Gao Zhisheng, a Chinese human rights lawyer who had constantly challenged official corruption, disappeared. His disappearance wasn't entirely out of the blue- in the last few years he had been detained and tortured repeatedly and survived what may have been an assassination attempt. In 2006 he had loudly denounced the Communist Party of China and ended his CPC membership. Clients he worked with included people evicted from their homes by government development, persecuted Falun Gong practitioners, and factory workers who were being exploited by their employers.

Early last year his family escaped the country and took up residence in America. Just weeks later Gao disappeared, leading to fears that he had been placed in a gulag or possibly killed. The only clues from the government were a cryptic statement months later saying that Gao is "where he should be."

Until yesterday, when he reappeared!
Gao Zhisheng resurfaced suddenly Sunday, saying he is now living in northern China, but it was not clear under what conditions. Since he went missing on Feb. 4, 2009, from his hometown in central China, the government has given vague explanations about Gao's whereabouts, heightening worries he had been jailed or tortured as he was previously.

Before being jailed and otherwise muzzled four years ago, Gao was the most dauntless of a new group of civil liberties lawyers.
Gao has been the subject of countless campaigns by human rights groups across the world over the last year, and I think it's safe to say that this pressure probably played some part in his reappearance. He isn't quite out of the woods yet, though:
Li Heping, a Beijing-based human rights lawyer and friend of Gao's, said he also spoke briefly with Gao on his cell phone and believed Gao was being followed by authorities.

"I believe he does not have freedom," Li said. "First, when we were speaking, he sounded like he wanted to hang up. He told me that he had friends around him. I'm sure that the people around him are limiting what he can say."

"Secondly, he would not tell me exactly where he is when I suggested visiting him," Li said. "We are very concerned about his situation."

The Freedom Now statement said: "It is assumed that he is under close surveillance, if not de facto house arrest."
If Beijing doesn't want him hanging out in China and making a mess of their one-party state then hopefully they'll allow him to rejoin his family in the States. Losing him would be a real setback for the Chinese people, but at least he isn't dead. Score one for human rights, kinda?

1 comment:

  1. Those characters look amazing in the post title. Might have to translate all my titles from now on.