After years of house arrests and harassment by the China communist regime, the wife and two children of Chinese human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng fled on foot to Thailand, where they were successful in obtaining asylum to the United States, arriving safely in Los Angeles on March 11. The ordeal of their flight were told in an interview, March 12, by Tang Qiwei of Radio Free Asia, and also by other media, such as the Epoch Times, AFP, and Sound of Hope Radio.
Unfortunately for the family and his many friends and well-wishers, Gao could not shake off the security police following him. Gao’s wife, He Geng, had to take her two children, daughter GeGe and son Tiangyu and make their flight without him. Between the time they reached Thailand around January 9 to their departure to the U.S. on March 10, Mr. Gao had been seized again in his home village on February 4, according to Geng who heard the news from a friend. The U.S. State Department said in its annual human rights report released on February 25, that Gao’s whereabouts is unknown.
But the family’s escape and successful passage to America does not begin to tell the whole story of the many people involved in bringing about their successful escape from the communist country. Geng He acknowledged inasmuch in the RFA interview by Ms. Tang. She thanked the people who most immediately rendered aid:
“Friends who helped us escape have contributed enormously, and some even risked losing their lives. I especially want to thank a Falun Gong practitioner in Canada, his wife, a media worker whose last name is Zhang, and President of China Aid Association Mr. Bob Fu. There is also a young Falun Gong practitioner in China. He heard that [my daughter] Gege could not attend school, and he quit school and came to rescue us.”
The “media worker whose last name is Zhang” was Sherry Zhang of the “Global Coalition to Support Gao Zhisheng” and of Sound of Hope Radio. More about her role later. The China Aid Association is a Christian group that helped the family escape and fly to Phoenix, Arizona.
The Gao family predicament had aroused enormous international interest as their living conditions deteriorated and became intolerable. Gao’s wife and children had been under virtual house arrest and 15-year-old GeGe had tried to kill herself when she couldn’t go to school. The 5-year-old Tiangyu was emotionally upset by the constant threat of his father being sent away to prison.
In an open letter to the U.S. Congress in November 2007, but not released by Gao until February 9, 2009, Gao described the 50 days of torture inflicted on him in 2007, including electric shocks to his genitals and his eyes swollen shut by burning cigarettes’ smoke into his eyes and nose for hours. He could not open his eyes for many days and when he finally could open them partially, he saw every square inch of his skin was bruised and damaged. If he revealed this torture, they threatened to torture Gao next time in front of family members, writes Gao.
Unlike most torture where the perpetrators inflict pain in a desultory fashion, his tormentors carried it out patiently and methodically. They told Gao that they had perfected their torture techniques on Falun Gong practitioners.
Attorney Gao, a Christian, is an extremely gifted writer, even when translated from Chinese to English. In 2001, Gao was named one of China’s top ten lawyers for his work in representing the poor and “downtrodden” groups. Later he came to the defense of Falun Gong and Christians’ rights to practice their faith, and aroused the ire of the regime by writing three open letters to President Hu Jintao and Premiere Wen Jiaobia to the end the persecution of Falun Gong.
Recently, he was awarded the Courageous Advocacy Award by the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) in 2007 from an organization of more than 6300 judges and trial lawyers. Understandably, many people were moved by Gao’s eloquence and pleas for China to practice the rule of law and end the murderous persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and Christians.
As the ABOTA said, quoting Gao: “Gao remains unafraid of consequences: ‘I am a warrior who does not care whether he lives or dies. Such sacrifice will be nothing to me if it speeds the death of this dictatorship’.” One can readily grasp here why Gao Zhisheng is known as “China’s Conscience.”
Gao renounced his membership in the Chinese Communist Party in 2005, writing that he quits “the cruel, untrustworthy, inhumane, and evil Party.” And then adds, “This is the proudest day of my life.”
Some people who were moved by Gao’s bravery were the “Canadian Friends of Gao Zhisheng.” They wrote an open letter to President Hu Jintao, quoting a few passages from Gao’s description of 50 days of torture briefly discussed above. One particularly poignant passage in the letter to the titular head of the Chinese regime said:
“Then two people stretched out my arms and pinned them down to the ground. They used toothpicks to pierce my genitals. I can’t use any language to describe the helplessness, pain, and despair that I felt then. At a point like that, language and emotion do not have the power to explain.”
But his words have the power to move people towards utter disgust at this regime.
The Canadian Friends of Gao Zhisheng also says in the letter to Hu that the Chinese Parliament (National Congress of People’s Representatives) will meet to discuss the so-called “harmonious society,” something which President Hu frequently alludes to. They note the supreme irony of the manifest pursuit of “harmony,” when the Party rulers carry out violence of this kind against their own people.
Why this seemingly irrational treatment? Dr. Zhang writes on behalf of 144 organizations asking for Gao’s release and humane treatment. Dr. Zhang agrees with other China watchers who say that the regime’s obsession with persecuting Falun Gong is behind it. She quotes Gao:
“Their main focus is on the relationship of me and Falun Gong—how deep this relationship is and my several open letters regarding Falun Gong. I feel clearly that the biggest worry of the evil force inside the regime is Falun Gong and the issue of civil rights.”
Apparently, the members of the peaceful meditation group that the regime banned in 1999, Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, greatly moved Gao to make this statement about Falun Gong practitioners:
“Their indomitable spirit, noble character, and ability to forgive the violent perpetrator are not only China's hope, but also the reason why we should continue to persevere!”
Zhang says, “Though Gao is not himself a Falun Gong practitioner, his support has brought to him persecution just the same.” The torturers said they would go easier on him if he would curse Falun Gong (in writing), but Gao said he was unwilling to do this.
Robert R. LaGamma, International Steering Committee of the Council for a Community of Democracies (ISC/CD) wrote to Hu, “[Gao’s] continued imprisonment and the violent repression of the Chinese people is an embarrassment to your government that prevents China from assuming the role of a respected world leader.”
It was letters like these and an avalanche of good will that brought about Gao’s family placed in safety. Friends of Gao Zhisheng and the Global Association for the Rescue of Gao Zhisheng expressed thanks to those who helped in the family’s rescue, including the U.N. Refugee Agency, according to the Epoch Times, March 11.