Gao Zhisheng (高智晟)Comments Off on Gao Zhisheng (高智晟)
Gao Zhisheng 高智晟
* Under medical watch
Crime: Inciting subversion of state power
Length of Punishment: Three years, suspended (placed on probation) for five years
Court: Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court
Trial date: December 12, 2006
Sentencing date: December 22, 2006
Dates of Detention/Arrest: August 15, 2006 (detained), September 21, 2006 (arrested); August 7, 2014 (released into house arrest)
Place of Detention: Unknown (missing since August 13, 2017; previous: Shaya Prison (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) from December 2011 (following enforced disappearance in unknown locations from April 2010)
Date of Birth: April 20, 1964
Medical Condition(s): Decayed and fallen out teeth, malnutrition
Place of Detention: Unknown (missing since August 13, 2017)
Gao Zhisheng, a disbarred lawyer and previous law firm director, was “disappeared” on September 22, 2007, while on parole for a past conviction, and taken away by Beijing police officers from the State Security Bureau and the National Security Unit. Days before his disappearance, he had written to the U.S. Congress urging members to focus on China’s human rights before the Olympics. Gao and his wife Geng He (耿和) and two children were held in a “black jail” in the outskirts of Beijing until he was forcibly returned to his home in Xinjiang.
His wife and children fled China in January 2009, claiming asylum in the United States, and Gao was soo after “disappeared” again, on February 4, 2009. His family received no information from authorities until January 2010, when Beijing national security officers told Gao’s brother, Gao Zhiyi (高智义), that Gao had gone “missing” and they did not know where he was. The ex-lawyer then made contact with the outside world in March and April 2010, during which time he gave several interviews—indicating, among other violations, torture that he suffered while in police custody. In one interview with the South China Morning Post published on June 13, 2010, Gao indicated that he had been treated “like an animal” between February 2009 and March 2010, and expressed concerns that he would “disappear” again. Likely under heavy surveillance during this time, Gao disappeared again in late April 2010, immediately after he visited family members in western China.
No further information emerged publicly about Mr. Gao until December 16, 2011, when the Xinhua News Agency reported that the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court, which had issued the original verdict in Gao’s case, was sending Gao to prison for violating terms of his probation. While in prison, Gao was granted sporadic visits from family members. During one visit, in the presence of police, Gao Zhisheng reportedly said that he did not want any further involvement in his legal case, did not wish to file an appeal, and did not need a lawyer to represent him. It is believed that he was under pressure from authorities to make these statements.
Gao was released in August 2014 and placed under house arrest in Shaanxi Province. He was reportedly unable to speak when he left prison, had lost several of his teeth due to malnutrition, and had lost a significant amount of weight. As reported in August 2017, Gao still was under highly restrictive house arrest and living in poor conditions while under constant watch of guards. He had continued to be blocked from seeking dental treatment, even as more of this teeth had decayed and fallen out.
According to his family, Gao disappeared from his residence in Shaanxi on August 13, 2017, after apparently being helped to escape confinement. His family reportedly only learned on September 5 that police were holding him in Beijing. In October 2017, the Chinese government informed the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that, contrary to a multitude of reports, Gao had not faced “any coercive measures” after he had served out his prison time in August 2014. The communication further noted that, following Gao’s family report in August that the ex-lawyer was missing, “public security authorities have carried out an inquiry in accordance with the law, and the case is currently still open.” In November 2017, it was reported that Gao was again being held in Shaanxi. At that time, he was apparently being held in a darkened room, with the windows covered, and was not being allowed to go outside. Several activists were reportedly detained in connection to helping Gao escape in August.
Before being detained in 2006, Gao Zhisheng had represented defendants who were persecuted for activities tied to the banned sect Falun Gong and unofficial Christian house churches. He had served as the director of the Beijing Shengzhi Law Firm, which had its license suspended by the Beijing Bureau of Judiciary Affairs in November 2005. Born in 1966, Gao was also outspoken in the overseas media about human rights violations in China. Gao was detained on August 15, 2006, and arrested on September 21, 2006, on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” in Chaoyang District in Beijing. His trial took place on December 12, 2006, and he was sentenced 10 days later to three years’ imprisonment, suspended for five years.
Submission to UN on Gao Zhisheng: Communique to UN Special Procedures on Behalf of Gao Zhisheng, Alleging Arbitrary Detention, Interference in Independency of Lawyers, Retaliation against a Human Rights Defender, Violation of Freedom of Expression, and Torture or Cruel, Inhumane, Degrading Treatment, November 15, 2006, CHRD