Gao Takes On Another Human Rights Case

By Ding Xiao, Radio Free Asia
July 28, 2007 Updated: July 28, 2007

Beijing human rights attorney, Gao Zhisheng, who had been found guilty of inciting government subversion and sentenced to three years in prison with a five-year reprieve, faces more charges from China's State Security Division for his recent involvement in another human rights case.

Having been closely monitored by the Chinese Communist regime, Gao has recently caused concern among China's State Security Division by offering legal council to a human rights defense case. Last week the State Security Division abducted Gao and his daughter. Hu Jia, who had visited Gao last Thursday, told the Radio Free Asia (RFA), “Because attorney Gao continues to defend human rights cases, and persists in offering council to a beaten and damaged victim, the State Security Division sees these actions as a great threat. For one thing, Gao has already been forbidden to speak out, release articles, let alone participate in any legal activity to defend human rights. These officials know that once Gao is able to speak out, he will be an active human rights defender, so they rely on violent threats to silence him. They've already threatened to put him behind bars. At 2:00 a.m. one day last week, he and his daughter were abducted and detained in a hotel overnight.”

The new case involves Yu Zheng , who personally entrusted Gao with handling his lawsuit. Yu is a tofu vender at the Agricultural and Sidelines Products Market in the International World Trade Center and on June 1, the warden of the facility informed Yu that a bed placed in his store was not a pleasant sight. When Yu began to protest, he was beaten so violently that the warden left him with abdominal contusions. The incident had been reported by the Beijing News and several other media organizations in the city. Two days later, Yu was assaulted by the leader of the national security squad who broke his nose. Yu's relatives suggest that the violence must be politically motivated because Yu had once offered Gao's nephew a part-time job in his tofu store. Plus, Yu's aunt, Huang Yan, had been detained and threatened by the State Security Division several times for her support of Gao.

Recently Huang Yan had asked Gao for legal assistance concerning Yu's assault case. Her request led to Security Division officials threatening Huang with deportation to her hometown in Hubei Province. In an interview on Monday, she said, “Because I sought help for this case, I face a terrible threat. Today they called the police in my hometown, asking them to send someone to take me back to Hubei. The person they selected had asked to see me today, but I don't dare. Sun Di of the State Security Division sent me another message just now, warning me not to contact Gao Zhisheng and promising to find me the best lawyer in China. He said that if Gao Zhisheng gets involved in the case, he would be immediately imprisoned. Meanwhile, Gao insisted to handle our case, and planned to release his article detailing the event on Thursday. This prompted the Beijing Public Security Bureau to immediately intervene, and urged Gao Zhisheng not to publish his article.”

After months of separation from the outside world, Gao made contact in early June, revealing to the world that his family had been under intense government surveillance and control. Due to overwhelming international pressure, Chinese authorities had no alternative but to dismiss guards who had been watching Gao's family around the clock. But Chinese authorities continue to ensure that Gao remains unable to freely communicate with the outside world. The only way to actually see Gao is to pay him a visit at his home. Meanwhile, many human rights defenders familiar with Gao become targets for the State Security Division.

Consequently, trusted friend Huang Yan has become Gao's most frequent visitor. Gao and she worked to convey information about him to the outside world. Huang explained that Gao and his family were in a difficult situation. “I visit him to discuss my nephew's case. But the State Security Division insists that I am only a friend, and wants me to leave Beijing,” said Huang. “Because I now visit him every day, he is under even greater pressure. There are many things he doesn't dare say because the safety of his wife and children, as well as his brothers, sisters and nephews in his hometown, are of great concern to him. They will surely be affected. You see, if just an ordinary friend like me is affected; then imagine how horribly his family must be affected.”

Gao's wife and children have applied for passports to travel abroad, but their applications were postponed. Originally Hu Jia planned to visit Gao to learn more about his situation and to offer suggestions. But the State Security Division cut his trip short. “Originally we had an appointment. I planned to visit Gao this evening, because his wife and son went back to Xijiang Province to apply for passports but were faced with a great hindrance,” said Hu Jia. “I would like to see him so I could understand his situation. Gao's overseas friends hope that his wife and children can travel abroad to escape the constant pressure. Of course, they don't expect Gao to travel with his family. But now his wife and children are taken hostage by the Chinese Communist Party. Regarding this aspect, I am eager to understand Gao's perspective and find some way to help him and his family. But when I left to see him at noon, Beijing Public Security Bureau officials informed me that I could go no where today.”