January 22 was the second day of attorney Gao Zhisheng's journey to his hometown in remembrance of his mother, who had passed away. Although he was not followed by the usual contingent of police cars as he made his way to his home city of Taiyuan, the police found yet another method to harass him. They called on his phone while he was driving and shouted streams of abuse at him, including, “Someday you will be finished.”
Gao is faced with severe pressure from his brother, who is concerned about his safety, as well as criticism from some Chinese. Gao said that although the human rights lawyers in China are regarded by foreigners as heroes, the real tragedy is that none of them are stepping up to defend the rights of persecuted believers.
Gao's journey home took place during the worst weather in 54 years in the regions through which he passed. Heavy snow and fog reduced the visibility to only a few meters, turning the normally five-hour journey into an eleven-hour ordeal.
Gao was traveling with friends. They were just commenting on the absence of secret police tailing them when Gao received three calls on his cell phone. Since Gao did not recognize the number on the caller I.D., he assumed that the call was from the media or from overseas, so he answered it with his usual “hello.” The caller spoke standard Mandarin (Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect) with a Beijing accent and shouted abuse at him. Gao said, “It is really hard for me to repeat the dirty words. It is too filthy to repeat.”
The following is Gao's recollection of the conversation between them:
Gao Zhisheng: “From your first words I knew who you were. ”
Secret Police: “You are a [deleted] man who knew about it!”
Gao: “As a human being, if you do everything you are asked to do, it will do you no good!”
Secret Police: “Damn it! It's none of your business.”
Gao: “As a man serving a political power, have you ever considered whether what you are doing is right?”
Secret Police: “[deleted] you, you are a rascal, and it is my job.”
Gao: “How come your job is to shout abuse at me?”
Secret Police: “My job is to do anything. Today my job is to shout abuse at you!”
When Gao picked up the phone for the third time, the caller said, “Some day, you will be finished!” and shouted more abuse.
Gao replied, “You have already tried several times. You should think why you failed. My life is 30 percent controlled by man and 70 percent by God. If all you can control is only 30 percentage of my life, then when will you ever be successful?”
Secret Police: “Damn it! You are a rascal. Why would God bless you, you son of a [deleted]!” More abuse followed.
Gao: “In your eyes, almost every Chinese is a rascal.” Finally, Gao set his cell phone to silent mode.
Official Pressure on Gao's Clan Set Them Against Him
After 11 hours of travel under those terrible conditions, Gao finally arrived at the apartment where his mother used to live before she passed away. In the past, whenever Gao returned home, it was always a happy and busy day, but this time, his family was extremely worried.
Gao said, “In the countryside, the power of the clans is still pretty strong. These clan villagers suggested to my brothers that they capture me upon my return, beat me up, and lock me up in a cave.” Gao said with a bitter smile, “To them (the clan), to keep me locked up and alive was the most important thing. They think what I do is extremely dangerous.”
Before Gao returned to his home town, the local police department had investigated and tried to intimidate three generations of his family by various means. Because of this, the honest and law-abiding members of Gao's clan were frightened. They thought Gao had brought serious trouble on himself. Whoever offends the Chinese Communist Party is doomed, they thought, so they came up with the idea of locking him up.
Facing Persuasion and Blame, Gao Encourages His Friends to Express Their Determination
When asked about the pressure from his legal colleagues to distance himself from Falun Gong so as not to cause a negative impact on the fledgling legal group, Gao responded, “As I have said many times, it has nothing to do with Falun Gong itself, but has everything to do with the fact that those who believe in Falun Gong are persecuted and have their rights violated. I will defend whoever is in this situation, regardless of their beliefs.”
“In today's China, those people regarded as heroes of human rights by the outside world must consider their future standing as they decide upon the moral issues they face right now,” Gao added.” “At present, they are not taking a stand on the most important issues, and this will be a big disappointment for human rights defenders of the future. My decision, and those of some others, to stand up for these people's rights will definitely reflect positively on the human rights protection movement in China.”
Gao said, “I never try to persuade anyone to follow a certain path when it comes to sensitive issues, yet why do so many people try to persuade me? On certain issues, I cannot be swayed because it is a matter of principle. How could you persuade me to turn a blind eye towards a group that is undergoing the most bloody and ruthless persecution in today's China? How can this be right?”
When the correspondent asked attorney Gao if publishing this opinion would hurt some of his friends' feelings, Gao said, “My premise is not to bring any division or suspicion upon the issue of rights protection in China. The legal standing of rights protection is still very weak in today's China. Under such circumstances, to me, or to Guo Feixiong, it is a time to encourage rather than to discourage. Don't be discouraged! Please do encourage them