The wife and daughter of Gao Zhisheng, the Chinese dissident lawyer and author of a 450-page memoir that hit bookshelves in Taiwan this month, have voiced their full backing for him and his work, despite the consequences he faces as a person still under house arrest in China.
Gao Zhisheng, known as “China’s Conscience” for defending even those condemned as enemies of the Communist Party, was charged with “subversion of state power” and spent years under police surveillance, in jail, and was tortured horrifically on multiple occasions.
Today he lives under house arrest with his brother in a remote region of his home province, Shaanxi.
Gao’s book, beyond describing his harrowing physical ordeals, expounds his conviction that the Communist Party’s rule will not last beyond 2017, as well as the free, democratic China that must come in its wake.
The book, titled “The Year 2017: Stand Up, China,” is currently only available in Taiwan, but is coming soon to Hong Kong in both ebook and printed editions. An English translation is underway.
The Last Laugh
In the 2000s, Gao’s willingness to unapologetically defend those targeted by the Communist Party—notably, practitioners of the persecuted spiritual practice Falun Gong—landed the man once praised as one of China’s top ten attorneys in a living hell, which he describes in the first part of his new memoir.
When police weren’t subjecting him to grueling torture sessions, they were spying on him and harassing him and his family. In 2009, he was abducted and thrown in jail, where he languished for five years.
Imprisoned in the far western territory of Xinjiang, Gao Zhisheng faced an Orwellian series of physical and psychological trials. He was beaten, starved, exposed to the extreme winter, shocked with electric batons, and even had toothpicks stabbed into his genitals. Guards heaped verbal abuse and threats upon him constantly.
Yet Gao never recanted; instead he maintained that it was the Communist Party and its cadres, not him, who were in danger.
Speaking of two individual officials—Xie Hui of the provincial police forces, and Zhou Yongkang, then the director of all China’s internal security and paramilitary forces—as those responsible for his imprisonment and torture, Gao recounts how in 2009 and 2012 he declared, to the disbelief and ridicule of his captors, that they would stand trial.
“These two corrupt officials have already been purged,” a passage from Gao’s preface reads. “At that time, when I predicted that they would both soon be behind bars, I was mocked. But now we see how it’s turned out.”
Zhou Yongkang, whom Gao says one anonymous “leading comrade” likened to a Taoist god-king to describe his political power at the time, was purged from the Party and put on trial last year, ostensibly for corruption and unauthorized disclosure of state secrets.
And last July, a month after Zhou was sentenced to life imprisonment, Xie Hui was placed under investigation for similar misdeeds.
Gao Zhisheng, a Christian, believes that the Party will collapse in 2017, based on what he experienced as revelations from the Christian God. But he says that the end of communism is a historical inevitability even when considered from a secular point of view.
“This party is the most sinister. It is the largest criminal syndicate in history, and can no longer prevent the countdown to the end of its wicked life.”
Ready for Any Consequence
Having been pushed to the brink of death before, Gao, who spent over a year penning his manuscript in secret before having it smuggled out of the country for publication, indicated that he was ready for whatever punishment the regime might visit upon him.
“He told us that we should be prepared,” his 23-year-old daughter Grace Geng said at a Hong Kong press conference. “He is physically and mentally prepared.”
Gao refuses to leave mainland China even though his wife, daughter, and son all successfully fled to the United States. He says he wants to be there when the communist system comes crumbling down.
The lawyer, who is denied access to doctors and is in deteriorating health, is able to communicate clandestinely, if intermittently, with his overseas relatives.
“He’s determined he is not going to leave China for things he thinks are right to do,” Grace Geng said. “He is putting his family aside. He thinks there are things bigger than ourselves.”
Gao’s family also suffered the consequences of his refusal to give in. As a teenager, Grace tried to take her life multiple times because of bullying she suffered at school as a result of her father’s dissident status.
Grace, once angry and bitter with her father, now says she fully supports him in his mission. “He has faith in God, but I have strong faith in him and what he says.”