Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

GAO Zhisheng: One Year Later, China Still Mum on Missing Lawyer

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

GAO Zhisheng: One Year Later, China Still Mum on Missing Lawyer

Article excerpt

Gao Zhisheng, once praised by the Chinese government as a star lawyer, remains missing one year after police dragged him from his home. Rights groups are particularly worried about the treatment of the human rights lawyer.

A year ago today, Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng was dragged from his home by security agents, a hood over his head. Then he vanished. He has neither been seen nor heard from since.

Mr. Gao's prolonged disappearance has alarmed relatives and human rights activists, who say it is highly unusual in China and fear for his safety.

"I cannot think of a case where a disappearance has occurred for this length of time," says Joshua Rosenzweig, a researcher in Hong Kong for the Dui Hua human rights group. "There is considerable concern that some harm has come to him."

The Chinese authorities have done nothing to assuage such concern. Repeated efforts by foreign diplomats, human rights activists, and United Nations bodies to learn Gao's fate have been rebuffed.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu, asked two weeks ago about the lawyer's whereabouts, said only that, "he is where he should be."

"He should be at home," retorts Mr. Rosenzweig, recalling that Gao was under police surveillance when he disappeared, under the terms of a suspended sentence he had been given in 2006.

Relentless advocate for human rights

Gao is one of the most persistent and courageous thorns in the side of the Chinese government. A Christian himself, he has specialized in defending people persecuted for their religious beliefs, including members of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement.

Named in 2001 one of China's top 10 lawyers by the Chinese Justice Ministry, Gao pursued an increasingly vociferous human rights advocacy that later earned him the enmity of the authorities.

In December 2006 he was sentenced to a suspended three-year sentence for "incitement to subversion"; nonetheless the following year he wrote a letter to the United States Congress condemning the Chinese criminal justice system.

That earned him two months in detention, repeated torture sessions, and threats he would be killed if he spoke about his treatment, he recounted in a document he wrote and smuggled out of China after his release. …

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