UPDATED: Chinese Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng Feared Disappeared After Breaking Silence

A Nobel nominee and known as the 'Conscience of China,' Gao has been repeatedly jailed and tortured by the Chinese regime for defending human rights in China
By Larry Ong
Larry Ong
Larry Ong
Larry Ong is a New York-based journalist with Epoch Times. He writes about China and Hong Kong. He is also a graduate of the National University of Singapore, where he read history.
September 24, 2015 Updated: November 17, 2016

Update 9:20 a.m. EDT Sept. 25: Geng He, Gao Zhisheng’s wife, spoke to Gao in the early hours of Sept. 25 Beijing time, she told Epoch Times. He is safe at home, she said. Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, said that Gao’s movements are restricted, he is not allowed to visit a dentist, and is being prevented from showering.

When Gao’s contacts overseas couldn’t get ahold of him after these two publications, they feared he’d been detained yet again by Communist authorities. Finally he replied and confirmed that he was still at home under the constant close watch of the regime.

On Sept. 22, Epoch Times published an open letter from leading Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, and the following day The Associated Press published an interview they recorded with him in March. In both the letter and interview, Gao described the torture he suffered at the hands of Chinese police and criticizes Western leaders for their reluctance to speak out against the atrocities committed by the Chinese regime.

Gao, 51, was first detained by the Chinese communist regime’s public security forces in 2006 after he publicly defended persecuted practitioners of Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese meditation practice.

As part of an attempt to silence him and destroy his will, Gao spent nine years in the hands of Chinese communist security forces, most of the time in jail or another form of detention. He was brutally tortured on numerous occasions. On Aug. 7, 2014, Chinese authorities released Gao from prison and placed him under a form of house arrest in the remote province of Xinjiang; he later was moved to his native village in Shaanxi Province, in northwest China.

In March, Gao spoke about his experiences in detention to members of ChinaAid, a Christian nonprofit that advocates for religious freedom and the rule of law in China, and journalists from The Associated Press. Parts of the interview were made public in an article by AP and a 10-minute-long video clip by ChinaAid that was uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 23.

One day later, officers from the Public Security Bureau kidnapped Gao in his house at about 1:00 a.m. local time (1:00 p.m. Beijing time), ChinaAid learned from reliable sources inside China, according to Bob Fu, president of the organization, in a telephone interview. Gao’s current whereabouts are unknown.

In his letter to Epoch Times Gao talks about his ongoing commitment to bring to light the atrocities committed by the Chinese regime against adherents of the spiritual discipline Falun Gong. He criticizes world leaders for “turning a deaf ear to the human rights disaster in China going on around them.” In the letter he also announces that he managed to have two book manuscripts delivered overseas.

The AP report on Gao focused on the torture he endured. The video interview described his mental state while being tortured. Gao sits on a bed in a black sweater at the home of a family member, and at one point in the video shows his missing teeth to reporters. The video is a testament to the attorney’s “spirit of determination, compassion, and love for others and his enemies,” said Fu.

This is best seen where Gao discusses the third time he was tortured while in detention in September 2007. After spending four to five hours torturing Gao, his torturers were exhausted and sat down with their shirts off to rest. Barely a minute passed after Gao collapsed to the floor; he started snoring in sleep. He was shortly awakened by a “very hard” kick to his head, and his torturers said: “You heartless creature, you’re able to sleep?”

“We haven’t been able to sleep well for two or three days after torturing you, but you can sleep.” Gao said, “This is the difference between a human and a dog.”

As Gao recounted the episode, a faint smile broke over his face. “Actually, the difference is that I completely isolated my emotions from my physical body,” he said.

Gao continued: “One man’s inner strength is unlimited and supported by his perseverance and will not allow him to be brought down.”

When he was finally released from prison, the police told him mockingly that people are still “clamoring” for him despite his being locked away for many years. Gao smiled and said, “What you have been doing to me is part of it, too.”

Despite all the hardships he endured, Gao only wanted two things: He wanted to get his teeth fixed, and take a hot shower.

ChinaAid President Bob Fu feels that President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State John Kerry should “speak publicly and forcefully” with Chinese leader Xi Jinping when they meet in Washington, D.C., during Xi’s first formal U.S. state visit.

“Torturing, violating human rights and the rule of law cannot be tolerated by the international community, and the American people cannot tolerate what Xi Jinping is doing,” Fu continued.

“A country that treats its own citizens in an inhumane manner and in contradiction of its own laws and international norms doesn’t deserve shareholder status in the international community.”

The United States, Fu adds, cannot recognize China as a great power if Xi Jinping fails to release prisoners of conscience like veteran journalist Gao Yu, recently detained rights defense lawyers like Wang Yu and Zhang Kai, house church Christians, Uyghurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, and others who demand basic rights.

“China has essentially become the largest jail of the whole world,” Fu said, before making a dark comparison. “The civilized world should have learned lessons from the 1930s and the case of Hitler.”

Larry Ong
Larry Ong
Larry Ong is a New York-based journalist with Epoch Times. He writes about China and Hong Kong. He is also a graduate of the National University of Singapore, where he read history.