CRD Condemns Chinese Security Officials’ Attempt to Run Over Human Rights LawyerComments Off on CRD Condemns Chinese Security Officials’ Attempt to Run Over Human Rights Lawyer
We are deeply concerned about the personal safety of Chinese lawyer Gao Zhisheng, after his claim that cars he believes belong to the security services attempted to run him down on the night of January 17, 2006. These cars were illegally covering their license plates so that Gao could not register their numbers, but when one such covering fell off, he noted a license plate number that was the same as that of a car that had tailed him in late December. (We provide a translation of Gao’s detailed account of the incident, below.)
Gao Zhisheng has been fearless in his efforts to represent the interests of people in China who have come into conflict with the authorities due to their religious beliefs or advocacy of political change. He has also sought to assist poor people bringing administrative cases and those challenging arbitrary confiscation of property. His efforts to challenge the persecution and torture of members of the banned Falun Gong sect have particularly provoked the authorities, and are thought to have been the reason why, late last year, the license of his law firm and his personal lawyer’s license were revoked. (For more details, see background on Gao below.)
The attempt to run over Gao is the latest episode in an escalation of efforts to silence him which have now turned to violence. On January 13, he was beaten by plain-clothes officers after he tried to protest against aggressive surveillance.
Today, CRD has sent a letter expressing our serious concern about the danger to Gao to Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the independence of judges and lawyers and Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary General for human rights defenders, asking that they take up this case on an urgent basis.
We demand that the Beijing Public Security Bureau investigate this incident. State Security forces must immediately lift the round-the-clock police surveillance, and the Beijing Justice Bureau should reinstate Gao’s license to practice law. The Chinese government must allow a full investigation of allegations made by Gao Zhisheng in his October 2005 open letter about the use of torture in the official crackdown on Falun Gong practitioners, instead of using terror tactics to punish him for speaking up.
January 19, 2006
An Account of the Incident Intentionally Caused by Plain-Clothes Police Last Night
By Gao Zhisheng
Last night, I left the teahouse in Beijing where I had been with some Canadian friends and started driving home. It was about 10:20pm. I noticed there were very few cars on the roads. A car in front of me had its license plate covered by a piece of newspaper. I understood that this car was tailing me and we drove “together as a team.” What made last night’s drive different was that I was also being followed by a military vehicle from behind. This vehicle’s license number was also covered with newspaper. But the driver clearly tried to ensure that I was aware I was being followed by a military vehicle. Another strange thing was that, unlike in recent days when I had been tailed by many cars, last night there were always only these two vehicles.
Because there were fewer cars, we drove fast. Suddenly, the speeding car in front of me braked and stopped in the middle of the road. I almost simultaneously applied my brakes, but barely managed to stop my car; I was less than an inch behind the car in front of me! This kind of sudden braking at high speed is extremely dangerous for the car behind! I got out of my car. Because the license plate on the back of the stopped car was covered, I walked to the front of the car to check its license number. Unexpectedly, the driver suddenly started to drive the car directly toward me. In a quick reflex, I jumped to avoid being hit. I lost my balance. My right hand hit the front of the car. I pushed with my right hand and leapt onto the green verge on the roadside. I had to be quick, as I was afraid the military vehicle would hit me.
The car that had stopped in front of my car drove away. The newspaper covering the license plate at the back had fallen off due to the impact of its sudden stop, revealing the number: “Beijing EB8233.” After both vehicles sped off, I felt terrified by the sudden incident. My heart was pounding. It was not a matter of fear that my will could direct, but rather caused by an instinctive reflex. I sat on the green verge, stunned, for about five minutes. Then I got into my car and sat there for another six or seven minutes. Then, like shadowy ghosts, the same two vehicles reappeared at the side of my car. With a speed that surprised me, I dashed out and tore off the newspaper covering the license plate of the car that had been in front of me, while its driver had no time to react. Then I rushed to tear away the newspaper covering the license plate of the military vehicle, but its driver realized what I was doing, and the vehicle quickly backed off. From about 400 meters away, it drove back toward us slowly.
I started the engine. After I got home, my wife recalled that she had seen a car with the license number “EB8233” following us before. We checked our notes. Sure enough, the same car had followed me on December 30, 2005.
January 18, 2006, Beijing, under police surveillance
The Chinese original of this account:
Gao Zhisheng（高志晟）, male, 41, is an outspoken human rights lawyer who has consistently provided pro bono legal services to poor clients and taken on difficult and unpopular cases of individuals and groups. Gao is a self-taught lawyer and passed the national Bar examination in 1995. In 2001, he was named one of the 10 outstanding lawyers in China by the Ministry of Justice.
In recent years, Gao has represented many human rights defenders and people suffering political persecution due to their political expression or religious belief. For example, he provided legal advice on the case of Guo Feixiong, an activist detained for assisting villagers with their campaign in Taishi Village, Guangdong, to exercise their right to recall the village chief, whom they accused of corruption. He was also involved in efforts to free Zhu Jiuhu, the lawyer who had been detained for seeking to bring a law suit on behalf of rural investors in oil fields in Yulin, Shanxi Province, after the local government confiscated their oil wells.
On November 4, 2005, the Beijing Justice Bureau informed Gao that his law firm’s operating license would be suspended for one year. Ostensibly, this was for “failing to complete the appropriate procedures for a change of address after moving the law firm.” But Gao rejected the claim, saying that he had attempted to register the change of address but the Justice Bureau had refused to receive his submission. Verbally, he was told that if he did not comply with the authorities’ demands during the year, he might lose his personal freedom. The Beijing Justice Bureau had been looking for “evidence” to revoke his license, threatening his partners and assistants to leave. At a required hearing on the case held on November 16, lawyers representing Gao argued that the suspension was without legal basis. But later in November, the Justice Bureau announced that Gao’s personal lawyer’s licence was also being revoked, and demanded he hand in this document and his firm’s operating license by December 14. Gao has stated that he intends to take legal action to challenge the Justice Bureau’s decisions.
On October 18, Gao had written an open letter to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao requesting a government investigation into allegations of systematic torture and persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. He said he had to take this action because such cases would not be accepted by any courts in China and thus, as a lawyer, he was unable to provide legal aid to victims who were his clients. Since then, he has been under pressure from the authorities to withdraw his letter, but he has refused. Gao has continued his outspoken criticism of the government for its persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and of the unofficial house churches. Gao is a member of an urban house church in Beijing. His house church, the Arc House, has recently been raided and churchgoers repeatedly questioned by police.
Gao has now been under constant police surveillance for more than 80 days, including during his meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur against Torture, Manfred Nowak, in Beijing during Nowak’s November visit to China. In view of the harassment by the authorities, Gao went into hiding in northern China in December 2005, but has now returned to Beijing. On January 13, after he attempted to protest to the plainclothes officers tailing him about their aggressive surveillance, the plainclothes officers verbally abused him and physically assaulted him. Uniformed officers arrived on the scene and took Gao into custody for an hour.
Contacts for this statement:
Renee Xia firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosie Green email@example.com