Calls Grow to Free Tortured Rights Lawyer Ahead of U.N. Review

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Originally published by Radio Free Asia on November 12, 2015

Dissident rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who remains under house arrest since his release from prison in August 2014, has been denied permission by the Chinese police to see a dentist for treatment after losing teeth to torture — for reasons of ‘national security.’

Gao was prevented earlier this week from traveling to Xi’an, provincial capital of the northern province of Shaanxi, by Chinese state security police, burst into his cave-home on Tuesday, the founder of Christian rights website ChinaAid, Bob Fu, told RFA.

“On Nov. 10, three state security police officers burst into Gao’s cave to threaten him,” Fu said. “The point of this was to stop him from leaving the area [and traveling to Xi’an].”

“It seems that even his teeth are a matter of national security after all that torture he went through,” Fu said. “I would like to call on the Chinese government to grant Gao his full liberty and allow him to return to his home in Beijing, and to seek medical treatment.”

In a Nov. 3 letter to Fu, Gao had said he needed urgent dental treatment owing to damage caused by torture in 2009.

“If teeth have emotions, then being my teeth is really unbearable,” Gao wrote, in an English translation of the letter posted on the ChinaAid website.

“Especially in 2009, these teeth experienced surprising and startling pain. When I was secretly jailed at a military site, I was tortured by the same group of men who carried out my torture in September 2007,” he said.

Repeated beatings

During that time, Gao was handcuffed and a black hood placed over his head, before being repeatedly beaten.

“At that time, my body could no longer feel pain,” he wrote to Fu. “My awareness was also fuzzy and too much to bear, but I still remember hot mucus flowing out from my mouth. The pain my teeth were subjected to was great.”

Gao has remained defiant, however, hitting out at the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of him in a Nov. 10 letter translated and posted on the rights website

“Despite all that has passed, I exist—this is a fact,” he wrote. “Not only that, but at the current time I have neither the ability nor the wish to change this fact.”

“Right now, the big problem staring at you in the face is this: there is just no way to get rid of me—you’ve come to realize this, too, through ten years of trying to,” the letter said.

Gao, who has spent much of his time reading since his release from jail last year, is still denied any freedom of movement, and has been warned by local authorities in a number of places not to try settling there, he said.

He said there appeared to be no good reason for a recent raid on his home.

“The most absurd part of it all was when I snapped ‘What are you doing here?’ and those three big men had nothing to say for themselves. They didn’t actually know the point of their intrusion into my home,” Gao wrote.

“‘I’ll go and ask the leader,’ one of them said, running outside to make a phone call.”

Gao said the police were apparently acting on orders from Beijing, rather than their own initiative.

Gao’s letters come ahead of an appraisal by the United Nations Committee against Torture of China’s implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, scheduled for Nov. 17-18.

The Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, which compiles and translates reports from groups inside China, this week accused Beijing of a systematic failure to prevent torture.

“In China, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment remain persistent and widespread,” the group said in a statement.

Torture still common

In a detailed report to the U.N., CHRD said that investigation and criminal prosecution of torture suspects is rare, and victims seeking compensation can face official reprisals.

Based on more than 2,300 cases dating from January 2012 to June 30, the report found that torture and other forms of mistreatment “are especially common in cases involving individuals whose views, speech, religious beliefs, or rights defense work are deemed threatening by the Chinese Communist Party.”

Once a prominent lawyer lauded by the Communist Party, Gao began to be targeted by the authorities after he defended some of China’s most vulnerable people, including Christians, coal miners and followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.

In 2006, Beijing authorities arrested Gao and handed him a three-year jail term for “inciting subversion” that was later suspended for five years. But during the following five years, Gao had repeatedly suffered forced disappearances and torture.

He is currently under 24-hour surveillance by state security police after spending a year at the home of his wife’s parents in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Gao’s wife Geng He fled China with the couple’s two children after her husband “disappeared” for more than a year, arriving in the United States with the couple’s two children in 2009.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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