11/14/2015, 00.00
CHINA
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Government prohibits medical care for dissident lawyer Gao Zhisheng

The man, who has spent several years in prison, has lost his teeth from torture. Despite being released in 2014, he still lives under house arrest. The policemen who arrested him "did not even know why they were in my house to keep me from traveling."

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The Chinese government has prevented dissident lawyer Gao Zhisheng from seeking treatment for his teeth, which he lost due to the torture he endured in prison. Although he was released in 2014 after years in prison, Gao now lives in a state of de facto house arrest. "The most absurd part of this story - the lawyer wrote in a letter sent to the site ChinaAid - is that agents that stop me from leaving do not even know why they are in my house”.

On 10 November, three men from the state security blocked Gao at home. The dissident had planned a trip to Xian, capital of Shaanxi Province, to visit a dentist. The agents said they were there for "national security reasons" and threatened to retaliate if the man set out on his journey. Gao, who has lost his teeth in 2009 for the violence received in prison, chose to stay indoors.

Gao Zhisheng is one of the most respected human rights lawyers in China, and for a long time - before his conversion to Christianity - was one of the "ten best lawyers in the country" chosen by the Communist Party.

After this successful first phase of his life, in 2005, he began to collect a long dossier on the persecution of unofficial Christians and Falun Gong members. Moved by these testimonies, Gao embraced the Christian faith. Since then he began to plead for persecuted faithful, congregations and churches whose land and property are expropriated, and as a result was targeted by authorities.

He has been the victim of intimidation and physical threats. In December 2006 he was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment, suspended from practicing for five years on charges of "inciting subversion". At first he was allowed to return home, but in reality he was under illegal under house arrest along with his wife and children. In 2009 his family managed to escape from China because of constant harassment by the authorities.

On 4 February 2009 the police took Gao Zhisheng from his home. For over a year nothing was known of him until the end of March 2010, when he gave an interview in which he described his ordeal, including torture. He described how he was so badly beaten that once "for forty-eight hours my life was hanging by a thread." A few days after the interview, he disappeared again. In December 2011, after twenty months, state press announced he was jailed for violating parole conditions. Gao Zhisheng was released in August of 2014 after three years of imprisonment, but has been living under house arrest.

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