China Conducts Secret Investigation into Civil Rights Lawyer

November 27, 2005 Updated: November 27, 2005

According to inside sources, Beijing has ignored international criticism and started a series of secret investigations against Gao Zhisheng, director of the Beijing Shengzhi Law Firm, after a formal hearing at the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice.

The private hearing was held at the Bureau of Justice on the morning of November 16. Hundreds of supporters gathered behind a police blockade outside the bureau. The outcome of the hearing was not made public, but Gao's defense attorney, Li Heping, indicated that the defense was a great success.

Gao was at Xinjiang on November 16, still working on his other cases, when he accepted an interview with a reporter from the New York Times . Gao said that, based on the authorities' attitude towards the hearing, this was obviously another political persecution.

Some of Gao's friends received warnings from the authorities after visiting Gao. The authorities learned about their visits from the friends' telephone conversations with Gao.

Meanwhile, a dozen women who had lost family members in the Chenjiashan coalmine explosion and had filed a lawsuit earlier this year, withdrew their charges against the authorities. Gao was the lawyer in charge of this case. This huge coalmine explosion occurred in November 2004 and killed 166 miners.

According to an academic in Beijing, the authorities were disappointed with the results of the hearing and their actions indicate that they initiated further actions to deal with Gao.