01/22/2010, 00.00
CHINA
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For Chinese authorities, Gao Zhisheng “is where he should be”

The well-known lawyer and human rights activist disappeared a year ago. China’s Foreign Ministry admits and defends his detention. However, one of Gao’s lawyers says that claim is lie and that the family does not know where he is.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Gao Zhisheng “is where he should be”, said Ma Zhaoxu, spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, in the first official statement since the well-known Christian lawyer and human rights activist disappeared a year ago. One of China’s best-known dissidents, Gao is very likely in prison. In brief contacts with friends, he said Chinese security forces tortured him.

In a memoir smuggled abroad, Gao describes beatings, electric shocks to genitals and other forms of violence carried out in Beijing prisons.

In early January, Gao’s brother said that the Beijing police officer who took Gao away in February this year told him he “went missing” in September.

Yesterday, the Foreign Ministry’s statement was at least reassuring for those who thought that the lawyer had been killed.

“The relevant judicial authorities have decided this case, and we should say this person, according to Chinese law, is where he should be,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ma, who gave no further details.

One of Gao’s lawyers, Li Fangping, called the Foreign Ministry's comments “extremely insincere,” and said on Friday that after one year, no one in Gao's family knows where he is.

Gao Zhisheng was arrested for the first time in August 2006. After a one-day trial, he was placed under house arrest. He was accused of subversion, an infamous charge that allows the authorities to prosecute anyone who criticises the government or the Communist Party. In fact, his “crime” was to have published three open letters to Chinese leaders, asking for democracy and respect of human rights.

In 2008, Gao’s situation took a turn for the worse when he began to publish articles about Chinese repression online.

The authorities first tried intimidation and violence to silence him, but in February 2009 they seized him and made him disappear.

Gao Zhisheng, 44, was a well-respected card-carrying Communist Party member, praised as one of the country’s best lawyers. Then, he began defending miners, underground Christians, and Falun Gong members against the authorities.

In 2007, he wrote an open letter to the Congress of the United States about human rights violations in China, which led to his arrest.

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