China: Release and End Ill-Treatment of Detained Activists Gao Zhisheng and Hu Jia

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(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, October 8, 2008) – CHRD has received reports that Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), a human rights lawyer “disappeared” since September 22, 2007, has been detained with his family at an isolated location in a remote Beijing suburb where he has been subjected to cruel and humiliating treatment. CHRD also learned that Hu Jia(胡佳), an imprisoned human rights activist, has been repeatedly punished for speaking up about the rights of prisoners. CHRD calls for the release of the activists and an immediate end to their degrading treatment.

“As Mr. Hu and Mr. Gao are being tipped as possible Nobel peace prize winners, our focus should be on the arbitrary detention and cruel treatment they are being subjected to for defending human rights. This renew international attention on the activists will hopefully generate enough pressure for their release,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Coordinator.

CHRD received two separate reports that Gao, together with his wife and two children, have been detained at a “black jail”, an isolated building in a remote Beijing suburb since June 2008. Gao and family are believed to be held by policemen from the National Security Unit (guobao) under Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) and the State Security Bureau (guoan) under the Ministry of State Security. The policemen interrogated, beat and humiliated Gao, such as stripping his clothes off and making him eat food off the floor, sometimes in front of his family. Gao’s children have been barred from attending school. Gao is believed to be punished for speaking up about human rights and for refusing to confess to wrongdoing and promise to stay quiet. However, CHRD is unable to independently verify this information with Gao’s close relatives or friends, who either have no knowledge of his situation or have been pressured by the authorities to remain silent about the activist.

CHRD also learnt that Hu Jia was again punished for protesting against the humiliating treatment of fellow prisoners and telling them about prisoners’ rights at Chaobai Prison, where he is serving his sentence. On August 13, Hu was subjected to a 24-hour solitary confinement in handcuffs and leg irons. For nine days afterwards, Hu had to “reflect” on his “wrongdoing” on his own and fellow prisoners were prohibited from speaking with, or lending newspapers and books to, the activist. In August, Hu was made to perform manual labor under the hot sun for seven hours every day after he had publicly pointed out that certain punishments used by the prison violate basic human dignity. Hu continues to be forced to labor, though the authorities claim that he has been given the easiest tasks—digging trenches. Previously, Hu was also made to thin out seedlings and paint tree trunks. Hu’s correspondences with his family are checked by the prison authorities, who recently have refused to deliver most of them and have them returned to him or his family.


CHRD is alarmed by the reports that Gao and his family have been secretly detained and repeatedly ill-treated at an illegal “black jail” for more than a year. CHRD is also appalled that Hu has been subjected to degrading punishment for speaking up about prisoners’ rights.

CHRD believes that Gao and Hu have been “disappeared” and incarcerated solely because of their peaceful activities in promoting human rights. The authorities have abused their rights to freedom of expression guaranteed in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which China has signed. This right is also enshrined in Article 37 the Chinese Constitution.

CHRD calls on the Chinese government to immediately release Hu and Gao and his family and to investigate and hold legally accountable those responsible for their cruel and degrading treatment.

CHRD urges the UN Committee Against Torture, which is due to examine China’s report in November, to inquire the Chinese government about the alleged ill-treatment of Gao and Hu. CHRD asks the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers to issue a joint urgent appeal demanding the Chinese government to immediately cease the degrading treatment of Gao and Hu and calling for their release.


Gao Zhisheng is formerly a lawyer and director of the Beijing Shengzhi Law Firm, which had its license suspended by the Beijing Bureau of Judiciary Affairs in November 2005, Gao represented defendants who were persecuted for activities associated with the banned sect, Falun Gong, and unofficial Christian house churches. Gao was also outspoken in the overseas media about rights violations.

Gao was “disappeared” on September 22, 2007. Gao was reportedly taken away by police officers from the State Security Bureau and the National Security Unit of Beijing PSB. Gao disappeared while on parole for “inciting subversion of state power”, a “crime” he was convicted of on December 22, 2006. Days before his disappearance, he wrote to the US Congress urging members to focus on China’s human rights before the Olympics. Gao was “disappeared” for four months in 2006 before he was tried and convicted of the crime.

Hu Jia is co-founder of the Beijing Aizhixing Institute of Health Education as well as Loving Source, a grassroots organization dedicated to helping children from AIDS families. Hu has reported violations of many different human rights, giving interviews to overseas press and writing about other activists’ plight. Prior to his detention on December 27, Hu and his wife, Zeng Jinyan (曾金燕), had been under “residential surveillance” (jianshi juzhu) without legal authorization since April, 2004.Hu was taken from his home on December 27 and formally arrested on January 28, 2008 on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”. On April 3, Hu was sentenced to three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment and one year’s deprivation of political rights for “inciting subversion of state power.”

For more information, please see:

On Gao Zhisheng:
Lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s Whereabouts Unknown, Feared Detained by Police (September 25, 2007)

On Hu Jia:
Update on Imprisoned Activist Hu Jia and His Wife Zeng Jinyan (August 26, 2008)
Beijing Activist Zeng Jinyan Disappeared on Eve of Olympics Opening Ceremony (August 9)
Imprisoned Activist Hu Jia Still Denied Access to Adequate Medical Care (June 12)
Hu Jia, Found Guilty for Criticizing Pre-Olympics Abuses, Sentenced to 3 Years & 6 Months(April 3)
Hu Jia on Trial: Rights to Free Speech and Due Process Violated
(March 18)
Hu Jia’s Trial for “Inciting Subversion of State Power” Scheduled for March 18 (March 13)
On Eve of 6-Month Countdown to Olympics, Police Stepped up Harassment on Zeng Jinyan (February 7)
Hu Jia Formally Arrested: Authorities Impervious To International Protest (January 3)
Detained Activist Hu Jia Denied Access to Lawyer, His Family Harassed (January 6)
Beijing Activist Hu Jia Detained on Suspicion of “Inciting Subversion of State Power” (December 28, 2007)

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