Gao Zhisheng's Letter to Fellow Rights Activist
Editor's note: Due to the Chinese communist regime's severe suppression, surveillance, and house arrest of Gao Zhisheng and his family, Gao's first two letters failed to reach Hu Jia. After numerous attempts to make contact, Gao was finally able to reach Hu by phone. During the conversation, Gao read his letter to Hu:
Dear Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan,
How are you? This is my third letter to you since I was released from prison.
As with the last two letters, we want to thank you and express our respect for you. Thank you for your sacrifice and commitment to our family. Thank you for your selflessness and persistence toward [upholding] human conscience, dignity, and justice. People see clearly how desperate the communist regime is in the face of your persistence because it [the regime] is a force against civilization. This passing era, as well as my family, will remember you and your selfless, moral strength.
My letter is written to praise you—the strength and courage you have shown make my wife and me so proud. Beginning with my violent abduction, the evil force inside the Chinese communist regime immediately began a campaign of terror and brutal persecution.
On the second day after my abduction, I saw many guarantees that others had signed, such as: “Will Not Get Involved in Rights Protection,” “Will Not Be Involved in Gao Zhisheng's Matters,” “Will Not Contact Gao's Family.” During the campaign of terror, your strength and commitment were so rare (they are qualities that are near extinction in China) that their value is a signpost for the future. Here I want to emphasize, for those who persist in their values but were temporarily forced to write down guarantees, we should praise them as well unless their souls and behavior have slid down to degenerate levels.
Please convey my family's respect and greetings to Guo Feixiong's family. In China, few people publicly persist in their refusal to cooperate with the evil regime. People should admire what the Guo family is bearing during this era.
Please also convey our respect and greetings to Chen Guangcheng's family. Chen, who is blind and longs for brightness in his heart, made the evil forces in Shandong blunder—they completely lost their minds. This kind of hysterical craziness still continues. However, brightness belongs to this era. Also please convey our respect and greetings to Yan Xuezheng's family. Including your family and mine, the courage of these families has made the regime terrified, and their traits—how weak and guilty they are—were exposed. If China had several more families like these, how long would the communist regime remain in control?
Here, please again convey my respect and greetings to my dear friends Zhang Min, Gao Jie, Xu Ling, Zhao Zifa, Yi Fan, Yang Xianhong, Huang Lijuan, and others. They are the voices who make me strong when we are in hard times, although we have not heard their voices in eight months. Please convey our thankfulness to Xiu, Dawei, and those who gave us strong moral support during the dark days, and many other friends whose names I will not mention and who even have different beliefs. [All of] you were the hope for our family when we were facing the severest suppression; you are family too.
Please convey our respect and greetings to Jia Fengjun, Jiao Guobiao, Yafeng, Tengbiao, Qi Zhiyong, Ho Chun-yan, Ma Wendu, and Heping. Please convey my greetings to Chen Guangcheng's defense lawyer Guo Feixiong and to Yan Zhengxue's defense lawyer. Please convey my genuine greetings to foreign governments, international organizations, groups, media, journalists, and all kind-hearted people who have cared about our family's situation.
I also want to say that during the senseless persecution of my family by the state machine that does not care for or respect our Chinese nation, many people inside the regime's legal system who still have kindness in their hearts openly or secretly provided help and support and showed sympathy to me and to my family in all kinds of ways.
During my detention, the depth of the support from those people was something I did not expect. This force of goodness had a key effect on me in being able to accept a process of compromise. The existence of this force is also a strong support to help us get over the hard times and continue to walk on.
I heard that in the outside world some people complained that I did not say anything after coming out of prison. I felt that this was unfair. The complaint should have been made to the evil regime that made our family unable to speak. Even at this stage, no bird could even flee from my home. Other than TV and lights, all other communication tools are non-existent in my home, and we are forbidden to meet any living person.
My home is a prison for the four of us. Although we live in Beijing, we are the loneliest people at this time. Almost the entire human race knows that the isolation of my family is unlawful. What the regime is doing to us is continuous, public, and shameful; it tramples and defies civilization and the moral values of the human race. But the entire human race seems helpless and appears to keep silent in the face of this, and the silence is definitely intensifying the isolation of my family.
This is not a letter of complaint although this is what is happening to my family. Everyone should be clear about this: We are appealing for the outside world's attention. It is said that enduring hardship is an opportunity to strengthen one's spirit and purify one's soul, so we do have some reward from this suffering.
Regarding the rumor that I betrayed someone, I just want people to think about one question: During my contact with people and involvement in many activities in the past several years, who could be betrayed by me? What kind of contact that I have had with people could not be put under the glare of the sun? In today's China, who has been interrogated or detained because of my betrayal?
I believe you did not receive my previous two letters, so I would like to provide a brief description of what happened in the prison after August 15, 2006. [ Editor's note: Gao was abducted on this date. ] At noon on August 15, 2006, after a loud noise, the door of my sister's home in Ying City, in Shandong Province, was violently broken through. More than 30 thugs rushed in, and four of them jumped on the bed and beat me down. After a shower of fists and kicking, I was forced to kneel on the floor. They covered my eyes and mouth with many layers of opaque tape and covered my head with a bag. I was pulled downstairs with my hands cuffed behind my back.
That morning, before the abduction, more than 20 cars and 200 men were mobilized around Building No. 27. On the way to Beijing, with one on each side of me pressing me hard, they didn't relax even for a moment. During the entire trip, they said only one sentence: “If he dares to act rashly, beat him to death!”
That day, I was taken to an unknown place. Tens of them were waiting, mostly in police uniform. After the head covering and the tape were removed, more than 10 cameras were there surrounding me and taking pictures of me with only my underwear on. They kept busy for more than 20 minutes until I was sent to a cell. From the abduction to the prison cell, from Shandong to Beijing, the mood surrounding these hoodlums was nervousness and excitement.
From August 15 to December 22 and during the entire process of interrogation, “815” was my name. No one was supposed to ask my name—this must be a first in the judicial history of mankind. My cell was No. 124 on the west side, and I slept in the No. 4 bunk.
After I had been in No. 124 cell for half an hour, the interrogation started. From August 15 to December 22, I was imprisoned for a total of 129 days. During this time, I was handcuffed for 600 hours, fixed to a specially made iron chair for 590 hours, and illuminated by strong lights on both sides for about 590 hours. In the 129 days, I was forced to sit on the floor cross legged to examine my sins for 800 hours, and I was forced to wipe down the bunk bed boards 385 times. The enforcement was all carried out by my inmates.
Since November 29, after both sides [Gao and the regime] agreed to compromise on the technical level, I was forced to cooperate with them to produce a video for admitting guilt “without pressure,” announcing my declaration “voluntarily,” and re-shooting the interrogation records.
In the 129 days, the so-called “interrogation” by the police was the lengthy part. The time from the intervention by the procurator's office to the prosecution was only eight working days. On the same day that I received the bill of indictment, court officials came to take me to the court. From the intervening of the court to the court session, it was only six working days. The so-called “public trial” court session was carried out extremely secretively. There was a 10-day delay after the court session, supposedly to obtain approval by the highest authority. During the court session, numerous police and police cars were mobilized.
According to the police officer who escorted me and who had been a bailiff for six years: “We have experienced lots of special cases, but have never experienced mobilizing so many cars to take one person, mobilized so many policemen, not to mention seeing the General Deputy Procurator personally conducting the court session.” But their standard answer to the outside was that “they are trying a chieftain of Falun Gong.”
A person who was handling the case said proudly: “815, you are a freak. We mobilized so much manpower to deal with you. Let me tell you, we are …”
[ Editor's note: At this point in the transcript of the conversation, Hu Jia told Gao that his voice had dropped. Gao replied: “Marvelous, Marvelous, God is truly helping us today. Our call was working fine (until now)… Today we got … someone gave me this phone card. After checking it, there is only 20 cents left on it. You must hurry … I hope I can finish what we want to talk about.” From this, we deduced that Gao got a phone card and made this call from an unknown pay phone. ]
We mobilized so much manpower to deal with you. Let me tell you, this is the most large-scale national movement since 1989. We have never put in so much energy into one person's case; our police worked so hard. Just for the hunger strike and human rights, there are 188 cases nationwide; one car isn't enough to load them all. Your case has brought the Communist Party and people so much trouble that even if you get a life sentence, it is not too much.”
The message I got while I was in prison was that from February 2006, the Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs of the Central Committee had mandated a special project team of people from the police, prosecution, court, national security, and so on, and they hold routine weekly meetings.
Every routine meeting was to be chaired by the Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs to compile domestic and overseas intelligence related to me and to the latest so-called “situation and movement of the enemy,” and then they would announce new directives. It also said the special project team was not going to stop working just because I had been sentenced and that they were going to continue functioning long term to exhaust all resources and means to restrain my family. It said my problem was not permitted to become a long-term problem.
In the entire case, what they are most concerned with is the resilience of Falun Gong practitioners and the issue of the [relay] hunger strike and human rights protest. Their main focus is on the relationship of me and Falun Gong—how deep this relationship is and my several open letters regarding Falun Gong. I feel clearly that the biggest worry of the evil force inside the regime is Falun Gong and the issue of civil rights.
Although I am unable to get outside information now, I think generally [the discussion] is all about matters related to the so-called “compromise” and so-called “public announcement,” and my heart is filled with such unthinkable shame. Regarding public rumor and slander, I have no plan to answer them. I know if I tried to, these people would come up with a thousand, ten thousand retaliations! Yes, there is compromise, the reason is as follows.
The good force in the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] has made a limited contribution. 1. They sent people to me who said, “Gao, you are a good man; we hope you can have a relatively good ending.” 2. “If you are jailed long term, those who seek your arrest would be even more unscrupulous.”
Another thing is that the evil force openly holds my wife, two children, and my kin as hostages. They even deprived my wife's family and my hometown relatives of all means of survival. The CCP thugs continue to openly torment their spirits and to threaten me that they will thoroughly destroy the future of my children and the means of earning a living of my wife and all relatives of my and my wife's families. Although I had some understanding before of the evil nature of the regime—one that disregards justice, promotes shamelessness, has a complete lack of morality, and will do anything to realize its goal—I still under-estimated how evil it is!
It is said that the outside speculates that our two sides had some shameful exchange. There has been an exchange: The written announcement is made under the condition of 5,000 yuan [approximately US$633] living expenses for my wife and children, which is my legal income that they illegally confiscated. Also, I don't have sufficient moral courage not to come to the rescue of my wife and children when they are drowning.
Gege [Gao's daughter] really took this blame and compromise to heart, and she cried in front of me many times. She said that she heard a schoolmate's parent say there were people accusing me of being traitor, and that I had a split personality. I am not willing to bargain over this, but I can't be unconcerned about my child's feeling.
Regarding this issue, I would like to be direct in discussing my opinions. First, compromise plays an important role in all political struggles. Sometimes compromise is used by the strong side of the struggle. Sometimes it is used by the weak side in the struggle. Many times it is used by both sides. Compromise is often considered a virtue when it is used by the strong side. When it is used by the weak side, it is often seen as a capitulation to the strong.
Second, in China people who stand by the side and do nothing will never be criticized. I recall one statement: “Lies are more suitable to human beings than the truth!” It is tragic to be cheated, but I think the most tragic thing is to see through the lies! Those who are cheated are much happier than those who see through the lies. I have been fighting for freedom and human rights, but as a result, my whole family is deprived of freedom. My passion for justice and righteousness in China has brought us shackles, chains, and endless persecution. I do not agree with those who criticize my decision and reject and dismiss my values simply because of their limited understanding.
Third, I do not think that those who have concluded that I have compromised my values and/or caved in to the CCP are being supportive towards China's human rights movements. China has never lacked strong voices in past civil rights movements—they are always at the highest position of morality and their tongues and pens are their inexhaustible resources. They always serve as the judges of people like us—the action takers—and they always accept the fate of people like us, who are separated from our wives and children.
This time, the fact that I was not detained for a long time has become the reason for their anger. It seems to them that the cause of human rights abuses is my family, instead of those who oppress us. Their criticisms have provided support to the lies of the CCP. Their criticisms help the CCP even more so to achieve its goals. Their criticisms play directly into the hands of the CCP.
The threat to the human rights movement is real. The harsh reality we are facing cannot be resolved only by passion. When I heard that my children and my wife did not receive a penny to support their living expenses, that they were beaten many times and that the U.S. Embassy refused to help my child after she finally managed to run to them to seek help, I thought more from the perspective of a husband and a father, and less like a hero! I do not care what these judges of morality may say about my moral standards. Their opinions cannot change my character or soul. And this kind of judgmental thinking undoubtedly works against the future of the human rights movement in China.
Regarding my current situation, I don't want to talk about it too much. However, regarding the past, I have much dissatisfaction. Compared to others' endless sufferings, what I have done is insignificant. Before 2003, I had not realized that a people's search for freedom and human rights could bring so much blood and terror. The cruelty that I have witnessed is more than could be expected of even the most vicious persons. I innocently believed that the existence of such terrible things were the enemy to a China ruled by law.
I once wrote letters to our country's leaders. As you all know, my single voice did not solve or stop the spread of the bloody crimes. Moreover, I was the one who saw through the lies. As a result, my family's disaster has begun. Today we do not know what the future will bring for our family. I do not apologize for my decisions. I will not agree with anyone who criticizes what I have done.
For my future, what I would like to say is this: I will no longer be the person who will work toward improving our society. I will keep trying to be a useful person to my family, which requires constant efforts. I will not provoke, nor participate in, nor do I have the power to participate in any human rights movements or activities.
From now on, I belong only to my family. I do not belong to any group. But if our means of livelihood are continuously threatened, I will not hesitate to fight for it. Nor will I hesitate to fight to protect my family even if it means that I will be jailed again.
As I work to improve my family's current living conditions, the prospect of another prison term will not deter me. The group of people that keeps my family under constant surveillance is also the group of people trying to kill me. What they do everyday to my family is targeted toward this same goal. They want to put me back in jail. No one can imagine their lawlessness.
I heard from Gege that Jinyan is pregnant. My whole family is so happy for you. A small piece of good news from the outside is like sunshine penetrating our soul. It is a feeling people with freedom would not be able to understand. It brings lots of joy to a family in despair. We are so happy for you. Congratulations to you! My wife and I often worry about Hu Jia's health. You must care for your health as much as you care for the truth. Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan, the present world needs you.
According to a reliable source, the Beijing Bureau of Justice and the Ministry of Justice have secretly revoked my license to practice law. In China's legal system, I have always been guided by my responsibilities. I have not done things that were against my conscience. But eventually, I became the target of the highest judicial authorities.
This reminds me of a discussion I had with a leader of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice. He said: “Attorney Gao, you should pay attention to yourself now. You have been labeled as 'the most special lawyer' since 1949. In another words, you are a stupid lawyer. Think about it, in all the attorneys' offices of China, who acts like you? You do not engage in cases that bring income and benefits. You get involved in stupid things which have nothing to do with your personal benefits. You are wasting your own time and you have become a particular concern to the Ministry of Justice. You should mend your ways. If you continue to refuse to realize your errors, it will be too late for you to cry for justice.”
I fully understand that the authorities are no longer aligned with the value and honor of my profession and that I have become the enemy of my profession. It is difficult for me to stay in this profession. In any case, China's legal system has temporarily become “pure” by kicking me, the “pale pure” out of it.