Editor’s note: The Epoch Times is publishing a number of articles exposing the use of torture by the Chinese regime against the groups it targets, and the suffering and harm it causes to those subjected to it.
After acclaimed human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng began investigating the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign of persecution against adherents of the Falun Dafa spiritual practice, he was horrified at the scale of the brutality.
But what shocked him most was the discovery that, among the wide variety of torture methods used on Falun Dafa prisoners of conscience, sexual torture was routine and widespread—of both women and men.
“Among the true accounts of unbelievable brutality, among the records of the government’s inhuman torture of its own people, the immoral acts that shocked my soul the most were the lewd yet routine practice of attacking women’s genitals by 6-10 Office staff and the police,” Gao wrote in an open letter to top regime officials in 2005.
“Almost every woman’s genitals and breasts or every man’s genitals have been sexually assaulted during the persecution in a most vulgar fashion. Almost all who have been persecuted, be they male or female, were first stripped naked before any torture.
“No language or words could describe or re-create our government’s vulgarity and immorality in this respect. Who with a warm body could afford to stay silent when faced with such truths?”
Gao, a Christian, was himself sexually tortured, including having toothpicks jabbed into his genitals, according to “Dark Night, Dark Hood, and Kidnapping by Dark Mafia,” an account he wrote of being physically and emotionally tortured for more than 50 days while in custody in 2007.
“Two people stretched out my arms and pinned them to the ground. They used toothpicks to pierce my genitals. There are no words to describe the helplessness, pain, and despair that I felt then,” he wrote.
Gao’s sense of justice was so strong that he took the risk of writing three open letters to regime officials between December 2004 and December 2005 urging them to end their persecution of practitioners of Falun Dafa (also called Falun Gong). The campaign was launched in 1999 by then-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Jiang Zemin who feared the immense popularity of the traditional practice, which had 70-100 million adherents by the late ’90s.
Gao’s letters, however, incurred the wrath of the regime and they went after him with a vengeance, leading to numerous detentions and savage torture over the past dozen years—despite his standing as one of China’s most respected human rights lawyers.
In 2001, the Ministry of Justice named Gao one of the country’s top 10 lawyers for his pro bono work on public interest cases. Born April 20, 1964, he grew up in a very poor family that couldn’t afford to send him to school, but he learned by listening outside the classroom window. He eventually took a law course and opened a practice after passing the bar exam. He is often referred to as “the conscience of China” and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times.
‘The Hope of China Tomorrow’
Gao was unflinching in his criticism of the CCP’s rights abuses and unrelenting in his quest for justice for the Chinese people, and he paid the price.
His law license was revoked and his practice shut down in 2005. In August 2006, after numerous death threats and continued harassment, he disappeared while visiting his sister’s family. That was followed by a three-year jail sentence that was commuted to five years probation. He was taken into custody again in September 2007 and that’s when he was tortured for over 50 days.
In September 2007, Gao wrote an open letter to the U.S. Congress decrying the lack of religious freedom in China and the Party’s persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, House Christians, and Tibetan Buddhists. The letter also slammed the regime for the suppression of human rights lawyers, crimes against property owners and farmers, corruption of the legal system, and allowing rampant pollution of lakes and rivers.
Also in 2007, Gao’s memoir “A China More Just” was published in English in the United States. In one chapter he criticized the CCP for employing “the most savage, most immoral, and most illegal means to torture our mothers, torture our wives, torture our children, and torture our brothers and sisters” and renounced his Party membership.
The constant monitoring, harassment, detentions, torture, and disappearances continued, despite condemnation by the United Nations and other international organizations and individuals.
Soon after he was released from a stint in jail in August 2014 and placed under house arrest, Gao escaped, despite being in poor health. He spent about three weeks on the run before his recapture the following month. He hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
Gao’s wife and two children escaped to the United States in 2009, fleeing China through Thailand. At the launch in Hong Kong of “The Year 2017: Stand Up, China,” a book Gao wrote during one of his house arrests and released in 2016, his daughter, Grace Geng, said reading the book only increased her respect and admiration for her father.
“I think he is a very strong person. I am very confident that my father is one of the most sober men this era in China. He and those striving [for the betterment of China] are the glory of China today and the hope of China tomorrow. I am proud of them,” said Geng, who hasn’t seen her father in 10 years.
“To him, for whatever he thinks is right, he is prepared to bear the consequences. I think what is important [for him] is to have no fear; if it is right, if it is something righteous, be persistent and finish it.”