Prominent Chinese dissident and human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng broke a five-year silence describing to reporters how he was allegedly tortured and kept in solitary confinement while he was in detention in China.
The Nobel Prize nominee, famous for defending Falun Gong followers and Chinese Christians, has been in and out of detention since 2006. In 2010, Gao publicly denounced the torture he said he had undergone, detailing how he had been hooded and beaten, upsetting authorities and landing him back in detention the very next day.
Gao was released from a prison term that many fellow dissidents believed would certainly kill him in August 2014. However, he could barely walk or speak in complete sentences, raising concerns that the outspoken lawyer and inspirational human rights figure had been permanently broken from his experience.
His wife and children fled China in January 2009, but Gao has insisted that despite the hardships he will stay living in China. He has called it his “mission” given to him by God.
Gao gave his interview to the Associated Press. He described the different kinds of torture that he endured during his years in detention including an electric baton that was used on his face. He told the AP that it was a “near out-body-experience” in which he heard his own voice speaking to him:
“Undoubtedly, it was from me. I don’t know how to describe it,” Gao wrote. “That sound was almost like a dog howling when its tail is forcibly stepped on by its master. Sometimes it sounded like what a puppy makes when it’s hung upside by its tail.”
Gao said that during all his years of detention he was able to build up a mental barrier against the physical perception of pain. “This is a special ability I have acquired to allow me to survive difficult times,” Gao said in the interview.
Gao’s wife told the AP that she still does not understand her husband’s imprisonment
“I don’t understand why the government has to imprison him. He is just a lawyer. His legal profession requires him to help and serve others. Why is he being treated like this? He is standing up for greater freedom in China.”
She told reporters that she hopes that U.S. President Barack Obama will discuss her husband’s case with Chinese President Xi Jinping when they meet at the White House later this week.
She also posted a letter from husband on her Twitter account that urged her to decline an invitation to meet with a U.S. deputy secretary of state ahead of the summit. Gao said that such a meeting would do no good.
“The American political class has disregarded the basic humanitarian principles and muddied itself by getting so close to the sinister Communist Party,” Gao wrote in the letter.
The interview with the AP was actually conducted several months before, but Gao insisted that its publication be delayed several months so that he could finish two manuscripts and send them overseas.
“Every time we emerge from the prison alive, it is a defeat for our opponents,” Gao said in his first interview in five years.