A ChinaAid Letter to All Signers of the Free Gao Petition

Friday, January 14, 2011

China Aid Association
(Midland,Tex--Jan. 14, 2011) With Chinese President Hu Jintao on his way to Washington next week for a summit meeting with President Obama, world attention has focused once again on China’s record of flagrant and terrifying human rights abuses, prompted by an exclusive report from the Associated Press that revealed new details of horrific police torture inflicted on Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng.
Supporters of ChinaAid Association know that we have been long-time champions of Gao, who disappeared into government custody for the second time in April 2010. (Here is ChinaAid's response to the AP report.) Among the last people to have contact with him before he disappeared were reporters from the American news wire service, the Associated Press, which on Jan. 10 reported on an exclusive interview it had had with Gao just two weeks prior to his second disappearance.
Click here to read the original AP report in English.
Click here to read the Chinese translation of the AP report.
The AP said that it had not reported immediately on the full April 7, 2010, interview in keeping with Gao’s wishes that “his account not be made public unless he went missing again or made it to ‘someplace safe’ like the United States or Europe.” Given that Gao disappeared again two weeks later and that there has been no word from or of him in the more than eight months since then, The AP after consulting with his family decided to release the details of his interview.
The AP wrote: “They hope publicizing his account will place renewed pressure on the government to disclose Gao's whereabouts.” It quoted Gao’s wife, Geng He, as saying, “We've had no word of him all this time. This could help us get some news of him and gain his freedom.” ChinaAid was instrumental in helping Geng and their children resettile in the United States after they escaped from China in January 2009. They are now living in San Francisco.
Although The AP did not mention Hu’s upcoming Jan. 18-21 trip to Washington, the timing of the report likely was not a coincidence. Geng told Radio Free Asia that she planned to be outside the White House protesting when Obama hosts a state dinner for Hu on Jan. 19. Also on the occasion of Hu's scheduled summit with Obama, ChinaAid is releasing for the first time a statement by Gao written on Jan. 1, 2009, entitled “Words from the Heart”.
Gao, who was hailed by the Chinese Justice Ministry in 2001 as “one of the country’s 10 best lawyers,” ran afoul of the authorities because of his leading role in China’s growing rights movement, for advocating constitutional reform and for defending victims of government persecution in high-profile cases, especially those involving religious freedom issues for Christians and Falungong practitioners.
His wife told Radio Free Asia that the AP report had stunned her and that she did not know many of the details he recounted.
“This is the first time that I heard about the details. My husband did not tell me … would not tell me … how he was tortured,” a sobbing Geng said. She added that their young son wakes up in the night after dreaming about his missing father. Their daughter, Grace, 17, last year appealed for Obama’s intervention prior to his November summit in Beijing with Hu, writing in an open letter, “If the Chinese government has murdered my father, I beg President Obama to ask President Hu to let us bury him.”
The AP report by Beijing bureau chief Charles Hutzler, who has more than two decades of news experience in China, started off with this description:
“The police stripped Gao Zhisheng bare and pummeled him with handguns in holsters. For two days and nights, they took turns beating him and did things he refused to describe. When all three officers tired, they bound his arms and legs with plastic bags and threw him to the floor until they caught their breath to resume the abuse.”
The 48-hour pistol-whipping session was part of a week of torture that began on Sept. 25 when Gao was taking an evening walk that his captors occasionally allowed him under their watch during a period when he was held in the far northwest region of Xinjiang, where Gao had previously lived and worked.
“A group of Uighurs, a largely Muslim minority group, approached him and punched him in the stomach. They handcuffed him, taped his mouth and eyes shut and took him into the upstairs room of a building,” where the week of torture began, according to The AP.
Gao said he knew his assailants were plainclothes police because “bandits would never use handcuffs.” His tormentors said they were members of a counterterrorism unit and boasted about their harsh interrogation methods.
The AP report continued: “‘That degree of cruelty, there's no way to recount it,’ the civil rights lawyer said, his normally commanding voice quavering. ‘For 48 hours my life hung by a thread.’
“The beatings were the worst he said he ever endured and the darkest point of 14 months, ending last March, during which Gao was secretly held by Chinese authorities,” The AP said.
The 14 months in police custody had clearly taken their toll on Gao. Hutzler, who has known Gao since 2005, described him as “weary-looking rather than his normally forceful self,” and a photo showed him gaunt-looking compared with his pre-disappearance stout build.
According to The AP, Gao said the torture in the 14 months ending in March 2010 “was worse than a previous disappearance in 2007, when security forces gave him electric shocks to his genitals and held burning cigarettes close to his eyes to cause temporary blindness.” Other torture included tying him up with belts, forcing him to sit motionless for up to 16 hours and threatening to kill him and dump his body in a river.
His captors told him in September 2009, “You must forget you're human. You're a beast.”
The AP report quoted Gao as asking Beijing police at one point, “Why don't you put me in prison?” Their reply was, “You going to prison, that's a dream. You're not good enough for that. Whenever we want you to disappear, you will disappear.”
Even though Gao’s wife and children had already escaped from China during this disappearance, the Chinese police simply cast their net wider and included Gao’s in-laws in their abuse.
In an audio recording obtained by ChinaAid of a conversation between Gao and a friend, Gao says his father-in-law received a government notice to go to a certain morgue to identify and pick up Gao’s body.
Gao said, “I heard that when my father-in-law went to the morgue to identify the body, he collapsed to his knees on the floor, unable to identify whether that was me or not because his eyes were blinded by tears … I thought this was an utterly cruel way to treat an old man.”
In the same recording, Gao reaffirmed his Christian faith.
ChinaAid founder and president Pastor Bob Fu, released the following statement in response to the AP report. Click here to watch the video of Pastor Bob Fu making his statement in Chinese, with English subtitles.
“We are shocked by the horrific torture that lawyer Gao suffered during his first, 14-month disappearance into government custody. At the same time we denounce the government departments concerned and the personnel who carried out this kind of torture on Gao Zhisheng, a principled Chinese lawyer. Such a principled lawyer as Gao has not only sacrificed his all  for the sake of human rights, religious freedom and the rule of law in China, but even his entire family has had to pay a price. One cannot help but feel great regret over this.
“Since Gao’s first disappearance, and again after his second disappearance in April 2010, ChinaAid has been organizing worldwide campaigns calling for Gao Zhisheng’s release. The Free Gao website to date has collected nearly 150,000 signatures from principled visitors from more than 180 countries who are concerned about the plight of Gao Zhisheng.
“On the occasion of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s Jan. 19 U.S. summit with U.S. President Barack Obama, we especially call on President Obama to press the Chinese government during these meetings to end its illegal mistreatment and tormenting of Gao Zhisheng, blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng and Christian human rights lawyer Fan Yafeng, and to immediately give them back their lawful freedom. We are troubled by the increasingly mafia-like tendencies of the Chinese authorities and the general deterioration in the human rights and rule-of-law situation in China. We call on the Chinese government to immediately give an accounting to the international community of the fate of lawyer Gao and allow him to travel to the United States to be reunited with his wife and family. We hope that President Obama during his meetings with President Hu will bring up these requests of the international community.”
ChinaAid reaffirms its committment to continue to fight for Gao's freedom until he is allowed to come to the United States and be reunited with his family. We appeal to all our supporters to continue to speak out on Gao's behalf, and ask that those who have not yet done so to sign our Free Gao petition at www.freegao.com

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org