Gao Zhisheng (高智晟)

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Gao Zhisheng (高智晟)

Gao Zhisheng  高智晟

(forcibly disappeared)

* 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: 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 is a former 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 tied to the banned sect Falun Gong and unofficial Christian house churches. 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.

While on parole, Gao was “disappeared” on September 22, 2007, taken away by Beijing police officers from the State Security Bureau and the National Security Unit. Days before his disappearance, he wrote 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 hometown in the Xinjiang. His wife and children fled China in January 2009, claiming asylum in the United States, and Gao was “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. He 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 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. 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 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 through 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. Gao disappeared from his residence in Shaanxi on August 13, 2017. His family reportedly only learned on September 5 that police were holding him in Beijing, weeks after they reported him missing. In November, it was reported that Gao was again being held in Shaanxi. At that time, he was being held in a darkened room, with the windows covered, and was not being allowed to go outside.

*CHRD’s Watch List of Detainees and Prisoners of Conscience in Need of Medical Attention

Further Information

China Human Rights Briefing July 30 – August 7, 2014, CHRD

Opinion No. 26/10 (China) on Gao Zhisheng, in Opinions adopted by UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention at its 59th session, November 18-26, 2010: (English version) (Chinese version)

Update to UN on Gao Zhisheng, July 23, 2012, CHRD

Chinese Police Must End Enforced Disappearances of Human Rights Activists, February 18, 2011, CHRD

Chinese Government Must End Persecution of Family Members of Activists, February 11, 2011, CHRD

Report on Several Issues Raised by the Chinese Government’s Response to the UN Committee Against Torture’s Recommendations for Follow-Up in 2009, August 5, 2010, CHRD

Paul Mooney, “Beijing’s Mafia Justice for Lawyer They Won’t Lock Up But Can’t Set Free”, June 13, 2010, SCMP

Hearing on Revocation of Lawyers’ Licenses Ends without Decision, Lawyers Condemn Baseless Punishment, April 22, 2010, CHRD

Submission to UN on Gao Zhisheng: Communication on a Victim of an Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance, April 15, 2009, CHRD

China: Release and End Ill-Treatment of Detained Activists Gao Zhisheng and Hu Jia, October 8, 2008, CHRD

Lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s Whereabouts Unknown, Feared Detained by Police, September 25, 2007, CHRD

Human Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng Tried Behind Closed Door, Without Lawyers Authorized by Family, December 14, 2006, CHRD

CHRD Condemns Police Brutality against Wife of Detained Human Rights Lawyer, November 24, 2006, CHRD

Abrogation of Rights in the Case of Gao Zhisheng, November 16, 2006, CHRD

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

Urgent Petition: Stop Illegal Detention of Gao Zhisheng and Harassment of His Family, August 24, 2006, CHRD

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