Prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s five-year probation period ended on Aug. 14, and his family wants him to come home alive.
Gao has been missing for 16 months since a brief public appearance in April 2010, after which he was again taken into extralegal custody by Chinese authorities; they told Gao’s family little more than that he has “gone missing.” He had been in detention, with no legal procedures, for a year before that short-lived reappearance.
“My family needs him. I hope that our family can be reunited,” Gao’s wife Geng He told The Epoch Times.
She said that according to Chinese law, Gao should be freed after the five years of probation. “We should always have the right to know where he is, but we do not know now.”
Aug. 27 is Gao’s 8-year-old son Gao Tianyu’s birthday. The boy asked his mother if he could call his father on his birthday. Geng He cried when she told The Epoch Times that she had to come up with a reason why it wasn’t possible. “It is raining hard in Beijing and Dad’s phone doesn’t have signal,” she told him.
“Before he goes to bed, he says, ‘Mom, you can use the computer. Please find Dad,’” Geng He said.
Gao’s daughter Gege is entering college this year. She has put her father’s picture on her computer desk and in her room. “She wants to tell her dad, ‘I love you,’ and I’ve never seen her do so before,” Geng said.
“Sometimes she would seem very down. We went to an outdoor event once and she saw a child with his parents playing the cello. She immediately asked me to take her away. “It reminds me of when dad and mom played instruments with me,” Geng said recounting the conversation with her daughter.
Late at night, Geng can be seized by painful emptiness. “This is really extremely tormenting for me,” Geng said. “It’s not something that only lasts a day. This is the time I have together with him, and to me, it is very precious,” she said.
She cried as she spoke: “I must rid myself of my emotions in front of the kids … At night, when they’re sleeping, I turn on my laptop in hopes of finding traces of my husband.”
On April 7, 2010, Gao, who had been missing for a year at that time, was interviewed by The Associated Press prior to Hu Jintao’s visit to the United States. Afterward, The Associated Press published a photo of Gao. He looked sharply different than before he had been abducted.
“He looked 10 or 20 years older. When I saw that his front teeth were all black, I called him and asked him why he didn’t go see a dentist. He didn’t say anything.”
Geng immediately looked up a dentist’s phone number and called her husband. But she heard Gao say, “Would you take the number down?”
That’s when she realized that someone was with him. “My husband could not choose his dentist. He could not choose anything he wanted to do,” Geng said.
“In the past five years, he had been kidnapped more than six times. He would always comb his hair nicely no matter how busy or tired he was. I was heartbroken when I saw the picture [of him]. He definitely had been shaved bald.”
Relatives in China are also searching for Gao.
Gao was allowed to return to his hometown to visit his mother’s grave in April 2010, but since then his older brother Gao Zhiyi has not heard from him. Geng said that Gao’s brother had written a missing persons notice and asked her to put it online, hoping that someone would provide information about Gao’s whereabouts.
Gao’s brother also made constant calls to the Beijing Domestic Security Bureau, a secret police force that hunts and detains dissidents, often using brutal and extralegal means. Sometimes his calls would be answered, sometimes ignored; Gao’s whereabouts were never disclosed.
Geng’s parents and Gao’s brother tried to post a missing persons notice, but the local police told Geng’s nearly 80-year-old father, “If you do this, you will be detained for 15 days and charged with disturbing social order.” The family found that their telephones had been tapped.
Gao Zhisheng is a high-profile human rights attorney that defended many prominent human rights cases in China. His career ended, however, when he called for an investigation into the persecution of practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice.
On Dec. 22, 2006, he was sentenced to three years in jail and five years’ probation on the charge of “subversion of state power.” Afterward, Gao and his family were put under house arrest.
Authorities began periodically kidnapping Gao during this time, until they took him away permanently in 2009. And, soon after he permanently disappeared, one of his articles describing his torture was published, titled, “Dark Night, Dark Hood, and Kidnapping by Dark Mafia.” It detailed brutal beatings, electric clubs used to shock his genitals, cigarettes held to irritate his nose and eyes, and toothpicks inserted into his genitals.
In May 2007, the American Board of Trial Advocates granted Gao the Courageous Advocacy Award. In 2008 and 2009 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
To escape being continuously harassed and monitored by Chinese authorities, Gao’s wife and children secretly fled China early in 2009. They arrived in the United States in March and were granted political asylum.
Read the original Chinese article.