China's Human Rights Champion Under House Arrest

January 7, 2007 Updated: January 7, 2007

Renowned human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, recently tried and sentenced for publicly criticizing China's communist authorities, has reportedly been released and is currently under around-the-clock surveillance at his old home in North Shaanxi, according to inside sources.

The whereabouts of Gao have been a mystery to family and friends since he was arrested without a warrant or any official documentation on Oct. 15, and was held until a suspicious December trial charged him with the crimes of “Subversion of State Power” and “Instigating Subversion of State Power.” As a result, Gao was sentenced to three years of imprisonment, with a grace period of five years.

In a Jan.3 interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA), Gao's mother-in-law first mentioned Gao's release when she said “…he had only stayed [at home in Beijing] for a couple of days, then he was taken away by them, and no one knows where he went.”

Beijing human rights and democracy advocate Hu Jia, dedicated in his efforts to rescue Gao, confirmed the attorney's release—but is suspicious of the motive.

“This is not done by choice, he is being pressured by the National Security Bureau … they have barred him from all outside contact. If his opinions on public affairs ever appear in any communist media or website, he would be returned to prison immediately,” Jia told The Epoch Times.

Hu said that Gao has spoken only with his brother and sister over the phone after his release, and was otherwise deprived of all outside contact.

RFA also reported that Hu believes the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wanted Gao out of Beijing before Jan. 1, when new press regulations put in for the Olympics would allow foreign journalists inside Beijing to interview Gao with his consent only (not the regime's).

'Dutiful Son'

According to one inside source, Gao Zhisheng has a very close relationship with his siblings and received past public recognition as “a very dutiful son.” His request after being released was to visit his ancestor's monuments and return to Shandong and North Shaanxi to visit his relatives, to comfort their worries and fears, and address the various pressures that they have received.

Regarding the lawyer's release from prison, Hu Jia emphasized that “this is not an improvement, but rather an increased show of evil.”

“On one hand, they are using the grace period to let Gao return home, hoping that this will silence the international society and make people abroad believe that this lawsuit has come to an end. On the other hand, the five years grace period is simply another way of imprisonment. Secluding Gao from any outside contact is an effort to make people forget him.

Hu Jia added that Gao Zhisheng's courage and spirit have given people confidence—his quick and thorough insights have also gained sympathy and support from Chinese citizens. This support has alarmed communist officials.

“Even after they released Gao Zhisheng, they still continue to exclude Gao from any outside contact, and at the same time forbid the release of Gao's current situation and experience in jail to the public. They also refuse to tell him of outside rescue efforts.”

Hu Jia is calling out to the international community, governments and the United Nations to continue monitoring Gao Zhisheng's situation.

Harassment and Intimidation

The removal of Gao from his home was the latest incident in Gao's public, two-year-long challenge to the CCP to end its human rights abuses.

Beginning with a letter on Dec. 31, 2004 to the National People's Congress, Gao wrote three open letters to the top leadership of the CCP asking for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong.

In Nov. 2005 Gao's law office was shut down and Gao's law license revoked. In December 2005, Gao wrote an open letter resigning from the CCP in which he revealed that his investigations into the persecution of Falun Gong had lead him to lose hope completely in the CCP.

In Feb. 2006 Gao called for a Hunger Strike Support Group to Support Human Rights, which organized relay hunger strikes by thousands of people in China in support of human rights.

Gao maintained a steady presence in the Western media. He frequently published articles in The Epoch Times and the wire services and several major Western newspapers carried articles about him.

While Gao was still free, he and his family were subjected to 260 days of daily harassment by the police, which included three attempts on Gao's life. On Aug. 15 2006, Gao was arrested on the charge of “inciting subversion.” After Gao's arrest, his family continued to be subjected to intense harassment, which included attacks on his wife Geng He and his daughter Geng Ge.