Picture of Gao Zhisheng from Human Rights Watch
A little bit of light was shed on the saga involving human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng this week, but his whereabouts remain shrouded in mystery. Speaking with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yang Jiechi denied that Gao had been tortured, but claimed he had been sentenced to prison for subversion. However, Yang did not clarify whether he was referring to a new sentence or citing the suspended sentence handed down to Gao in 2006 for having written an open letter to President Hu Jintao claiming Falun Gong adherents had been mistreated.
This development comes two months after Gao was declared ‘missing’ one year after he was seized by authorities.
Asked of Gao’s whereabouts in January of this year, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said he was “where he should be.”
Over the past decade, Gao has been challenging the government by defending Falun Gong practitioners and Christian groups. His law license was revoked in 2005, and he later confessed to charges of sedition after what he said was over a month of torture in 2006. Following this, he lived under surveillance. In January 2009, his wife and children fled China, and Gao himself was seized by authorities a month later.
In light of this week’s revelation, BBC News managed to track down Gao’s brother, Gao Zhiyi, who revealed they had spoken on the phone. He said his brother had “sounded alright, but didn’t say where he was calling from.”
Also this week, China’s Foreign Ministry lashed out at the UK, accusing Britain of putting on a “political show” following the release of a report in which China was listed as one of 20 nations with serious human rights concerns. One particular area that was highlighted was China’s increasing harassment of defense lawyers and the detention of human rights activists.
Yet, when faced with a barrage of questions about Gao, Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters, “I will not answer you (…) so I hope you will give up such efforts”.