04/27/2024, 12.43
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Gao Zhisheng, missing for seven years in China’s prison system

The Christian lawyer turned 60 on 20 April, but Chinese authorities have refused to provide any information about his fate. Repeated appeals from his wife, human rights NGOs, and UN agencies have been ignored. He is among the many victims of enforced disappearances by China’s communist regime.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Chinese pro-human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng turned 60 on 20 April 20.  He has spent the last seven in a prison cell, in great secrecy and isolated from the outside world and his family, who have not heard from him for some time.

His fate and current place of imprisonment are unknown. His wife Geng He has remembered him in a letter to China’s communist authorities asking for his immediate release so that he can be reunited with his loved ones.

In the past, Gao, a convert to Christianity, was subjected to torture and abuse. He hails from a poor family. His father died when he was 11, leaving the family in dire straits.

At 16 he was admitted to a county middle school, but due to the family’s poverty, he had to stop his studies and work in agriculture. Later he spent two years digging coal in a mine, unpaid.

To earn a living, he joined the army at the age of 21. During his military service, he met his future wife, Geng He, whom he married in 1990.

After leaving the military, Gao worked in Xinjiang, selling vegetables and fruits on the street to support himself.

Witnessing abuses and violations, he decided to study law. Self-taught, he passed the bar exam in 1995 and the following year began practicing in Urumqi, at the age of 32.

His first cases involved legal assistance to vulnerable groups, important work much appreciated that saw him named one of the country’s "Top Ten Outstanding Lawyers" in 2001 by China’s Ministry of Justice.

One of the first human rights lawyers to gain public visibility in the early 2000s, he has been a major player in the human rights movement in China.

He has dealt with cases involving migrant workers and defended people persecuted by communist authorities for their faith, including Christians.

In 2006, he was tried and convicted for "inciting subversion of state power,” sentenced for the first time to three years in prison.

Released on parole, he went missing repeatedly between 2007 and 2011 and was tortured by the police. In December 2011, according to official Chinese media, Gao was detained in Xinjiang for violating the terms of his probation.

He was released in August 2014, but remained under house arrest in a cave dwelling in his hometown in northern Shaanxi, next to his brother and sister-in-law.

On the morning of 13 August 2017, his sister-in-law went to the cave to call him for a meal, but he was missing and, to this day, he is among the many victims of enforced disappearances.

For the past seven years, his wife Geng He has been appealing to the Chinese government to provide information on Gao's fate. Her request is very simple: to know where her husband is.

However, the authorities have never provided any information, not even basic details such the location where he is being held.

UN agencies and human rights experts have repeatedly asked the Chinese government for information on Gao Zhisheng's fate, always meeting a wall of absolute silence.

His is one of the most famous and best documented cases of enforced and prolonged disappearance, an example of how the Chinese government openly violates international law.

ChinaAid, one of the NGOs following Gao’s case for some time, without obtaining relevant information, has joined his wife, asking China to unconditionally release him on the basic principle of respect for human rights, allow Geng He and other family members to visit him or communicate with him via video chat, and provide detailed information about his health.

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See also
Wife of activist Gao Zhisheng appeals to US Congress
Gao Zhisheng’s daughter writes Obama for help to find her father
Appeal by Gao Zhisheng's wife, the human rights lawyer has been missing for two years
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Relieved to know Gao Zhisheng is alive, his wife now wants him to come back
Human rights activist disappears


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