On Tuesday night in Beijing, the long-running harassment of human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng took a sinister turn: an assassination attempt on a Beijing street.
Shortly after the attempt happened, Beijing civil rights activist Zhao Xin received a short text message from Gao on his cell phone, which he then relayed by e-mail to the outside world. Here is the full text of the message:
“Tonight at 10:24, when I was driving my car at full speed, a car right in front of me whose license plate was covered with newspaper suddenly braked. This was obviously an attempt to cause an accident so that it looked like I deliberately hit the other car. I strove hard to stop my car. By less than one centimeter I did not hit that car! I got out of my car. Because that car's rear plate was covered, I walked to see the front license plate. At the very moment when I came to the front, the car suddenly started and rushed straight at me. I stood aside in a miraculously fast move so that I lost my balance and my right hand touched the right front of the car. I swiftly jumped to the garden on the side of the road. They quickly backed up and the newspaper used to cover the plate fell to the ground. I saw the plate number, which read Beijing EB8233. There was a mysterious car from the military at the spot during the entire incident. Please help to send this message to the Internet.
The man who was almost killed by the car: Gao Zhisheng
January 17, 2006″
This attack follows on the heels of a Jan. 13 incident in which police in Beijing picked Gao up and held him for an hour.
The response to that incident shows how Gao has begun to command support from around the world. He fielded over 100 requests from media outside China for interviews, including The Epoch Times, New Tang Dynasty Television, Sound of Hope Radio, Radio Free Asia, Voice of America (VOA), Agence France Presse (AFP), BBC, Japan's Kyodo News, French Radio International (RFI), the New York Times, and German Communications Center.
Numerous reporters told Gao, “If you were ever arrested by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), then China would be creating international news!”
On Jan. 13, over a hundred organizations outside China formed the Global Alliance to Support Attorney Gao Zhisheng for the purposes of formally demanding that the CCP immediately end the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and the threats towards human rights lawyers. In addition, the group plans on nominating Attorney Gao Zhisheng for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Support Inside China
Reaction to the arrest inside China was also very strong.
On the night of Mr. Gao's release, his phone did not stop ringing as he received around 500 phone calls, many from people with whom he had never spoken with before. He had to disconnect his phone in order to rest. Mr. Gao expressed that it was beyond his own expectations, and most likely far beyond the expectations of the Chinese Communist regime, that he would receive so much support.
Some Christians from Hebei and Anhui Provinces announced that in one hour they contacted over 600 people and that they have been continuously spreading the news. They encourage people to step up and protest against the CCP's persecution.
One businessman from Xian City said, “If you were arrested, I would give up my business and fight with them to the end!”
Some of the callers said, “We are government officials and we are furious with the government!”
Many college students asked Mr. Gao, “What should we do now?” To which Mr. Gao answered, “I cannot speak for all Chinese people. Please do what you should do.”
A businessman from Henan Province called in saying, “Attorney Gao, I would not have called if they did not arrest you today, but now I must call. Actually there are a lot of people who support you in their hearts! All of my colleagues have read your articles. They have all quit the CCP and its affiliated organizations.”
Raising the Stakes?
Gao has won such strong support inside China and around the world because of his bold and uncompromising stand on human rights.
Gao has for ten years worked inside the Chinese legal system to try defend the rights of those who have been abused or persecuted by the CCP: workers, miners, villagers who have lost their land, house Christians, and Falun Gong practitioners.
Since Gao touched upon the Falun Gong issue—a critical issue that the CCP most fears being raised—the Chinese government has been trying to put him out of business.
On Dec. 12, Gao published an open letter to CCP head Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao that detailed his investigation into the persecution of Falun Gong. The letter features long quotes from Falun Gong practitioners detailing the tortures they have suffered at the hands of CCP officials. That letter has caused a sensation in China, and lead many to break with the CCP.
Gao himself, shortly after publishing this letter, published his own withdrawal from the CCP, saying that his investigation into the persecution of Falun Gong had been “a shocking experience to my soul” that had caused him to lose any hope for the CCP.
On Dec. 16, the Communist regime announced it was closing Gao's law firm. It also took away his law license.
For over 70 days, Gao has faced constant monitoring by the police. He has written letters describing dozens of plainclothes policemen outside his home at all hours of the day who follow him wherever he goes—a common tactic of intimidation used by the Communist regime.
Gao has also described attempts by callers to offer him sex or money in an attempt to corrupt him.
In the days before the assassination attempt, Gao reported that the behavior of the plainclothes police had become increasingly “outrageous.” Then the assassination attempt came on Tuesday.
Some believe that the assassination attempt is linked to the strong support Gao has received.
Ms. Theresa Chu, the Director of International Advocates for Justice, one of the 100 organizations that formed a coalition to support Gao, says: “It is reasonable to infer that the CCP, on seeing how much support Gao received from around the world following his arrest on the 13th, came to the conclusion that it would be counter-productive to arrest him. Paradoxically, this could lead the CCP to choose assassination. In their view, eliminating Gao would eliminate the problem he poses for them. If you look at the history of the CCP, you know that they have been very willing to use the tool of assassination for political purposes.”
In the e-mail message that Zhao Xin sent first reporting the assassination attempt, he said, “I am calling for all kind-hearted people, no matter if you are within this system, in China, or in other countries. Please pay high attention to the safety of lawyer Gao Zhisheng. If one person is enslaved, all of us will have no freedom!”
That is a sentiment of which Gao Zhisheng would no doubt approve.
Reporting by Zhao Xin, and by Epoch Times staffers Gao Ling and Stephen Gregory.