Concern is increasing as no word is heard of the exact whereabouts of attorney Gao Zhisheng--a Beijing attorney internationally well known for his defense of immigrant worker peasants, religious rights, and democracy. Gao, a Christian, was arrested Aug 15 and secretly taken away by Chinese police while attending to his critically ill brother-in-law.
To bring attention to the Gao's arrest, a rally was held at the Capital Mall last Sunday sponsored by the Global Center for Quitting the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Wei Jingsheng Foundation, and Future China Forum.
Most of the speakers characterized the arrest of Gao as a critical moment in China's future. How the world responds and what takes place within China at this moment may well determine the direction that China takes in joining other free nations in becoming a constitutional democracy, respectful of human rights.
"[Gao's] detention reveals a truth of the human rights abuse inside China: that a lawyer defending others will have a hard time even to defend himself," said Ciping Huang, Executive Director, Wei Jingsheng Foundation.
Ms. Huang praised the bravery of Gao for even associating with Falun Gong practitioners, of people who the former dictator of China, Jiang Zemin, said, "those who deserve to be beaten to death." Gao even defends Falun Gong, she said.
"So, the detention of Lawyer Gao is not just against himself, but also against the people he represented, against the Falun Gong members, against all those who are under-privileged and abused by the Chinese regime."
Terri Marsh, the lead attorney of the U.S. and international lawsuits against Jiang Zemin, spoke of the respect Gao had among his attorney colleagues:
"[Gao has earned…] the respect of the entire international community of lawyers, judges, legislators, human rights advocates, civil rights advocates, the press, UN special rapporteur. When Theresa Chu, Carlos Ignesias and I sent letters for signature to bar associations around the world, all were quick to reply. Some of the most famous international human rights attorneys, like Tony D'Amatas, Andrea Biancchi, William Aceves themselves drafted letters for us to send and re-send. Thousands upon thousands of leaders from all walks of life stood up and spoke out in support of Gao Zhizheng."
Attorney Marsh raised the question that most of the speakers asked as well: "Why would the CCP do something so blatantly damaging to its world image and reputation? To arrest a man who could have become the next leader of [China], a star attorney, a noble man who has the courage to risk his life to use the law to defend not the CCP but moral principle? Many are now asking this question."
Attorney Gao gave an explanation for his own arrest by a statement he made a few days prior to his arrest: "In the brutal and high-pressured environment of China today, lawyers feel a disproportionate amount of this pressure. It is lawyers who, in this modern world, dominate almost all aspects associated with the normal functioning of society — they are the force that check the forces of power and protect those who could be harmed as national forces vie for power. The forces behind communism understand the role that lawyers play and, for this reason, have targeted them."
"The pressure [on] lawyers…comes the most strongly from the Chinese Communist Party's national security system — composed of people who do not understand the law. Our national security system is a group of thugs who drive cars without license plates. They control the country like chess pieces and cover every corner of China. Modern information technology has increased this group's evil energy. They control almost every Chinese lawyer who shows any ounce of righteousness and conscience. They systematically insult, coerce, and intimidate."