Missing Chinese human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng is in Urumqi, according to information released by Chinese authorities to the Dui Hua Foundation, a U.S.-based human rights group.
Mr. Gao disappeared from his home on Feb. 4, 2009. No one, including his wife, has had news about his whereabouts or condition for over a year. Last month, when police told his brother, Gao Zhiyi, that Mr. Gao “went missing,” the international community reacted with alarm. Family and international supporters worried that this was an indication that he was no longer alive.
In a brief statement, the Dui Hua Foundation said the Chinese embassy in Washington told them on Feb. 12 that Gao is “working in Urumqi.” Executive Director John Kamm said the news was a "tentative step in the right direction toward accountability,” but, if it is true, many questions still need to be answered.
As of Feb. 14, Gao Zhiyi said he still did not know his brother's whereabouts. According to an Associated Press report, Gao Zhiyi has been calling the Beijing police repeatedly, but his phone calls are not answered.
Gao Exposed Torture by Chinese Security Forces
Gao, named one of China’s top 10 lawyers in 2001, began to run afoul of the regime by taking on human rights cases and campaigning on behalf of victims of government abuses. In 2005, he wrote three open letters to Communist Party leaders calling for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong.
He was first arrested in Aug. 2006 and was placed under house arrest following a one-day trial. State media said he was accused of subversion on the basis of nine articles posted on foreign Web sites.
Just prior to his disappearance, Mr. Gao published a statement that described the tortures he was subjected to by Chinese security forces during a period of detention in 2007. These included severe beatings, electric shocks to his genitals, and cigarettes held to his eyes.
Beijing Reluctant to Disclose Information
Even though the United States and the European Union have urged the Chinese authorities to reveal Mr. Gao’s condition and whereabouts, Beijing has been keeping that information a secret until now.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said last month that Mr. Gao is “where he is supposed to be.”
Mr. Gao’s family could not bear the constant surveillance they were subjected to in China. His wife and two children fled a month prior to his disappearance and have since become refugees in the U.S.
Dr. Jerome Cohen from the New York University School of Law, an expert on China's legal system, told the Associated Press that Mr. Gao’s case is an important one, and that Chinese officials must answer for his disappearance. "Why the Chinese government chooses to play it this way is baffling," Cohen said.
Read the original Chinese article.