RFA: No News of Gao Zhisheng in Over a Year, U.S. Congress to Hold Hearing on Jan. 16

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Gao Zhisheng
Radio Free Asia
By Zhang Min

January 11, 2014

(Editor’s note: This report is written from an interview done for radio.)

The New Year is here and the Spring Festival is around the corner. The Spring Festival is the most important day in a year for the Chinese people when they get together with family. The saying goes like this: “On festive occasions more than ever, one thinks of one's loved ones far away.” When this program was broadcast for the first time, there was no news within the past year of Gao Zhisheng, the rights defense lawyer who is serving his time in Shaya Prison in [the far western region of] Xinjiang, China. His wife and children in America and his brothers and relatives in his native town miss him very much and hope they can visit lawyer Gao Zhisheng in jail to learn about his recent situation. They all the more hope that he can be released from prison as soon as possible.

‘I called Shaya Prison, and they didn’t take the call.’
On the evening of Jan. 9, Beijing time, I made a trans-Pacific call to Mr. Gao Zhiyi, the eldest brother of Gao Zhisheng who is now in his native town in Northern Shaanxi and asked him about the recent situation.

Zhang: “Have you contacted the relevant departments? When can Gao Zhisheng’s family members go and see lawyer Gao? Are there any new circumstances now?”

Gao Zhiyi: “No. I called Shaya Prison the other day, and they didn’t take the call. One must make an appointment with Shaya Prison. Otherwise, they wouldn’t let you visit him. How can I see my brother? I must get an approval from Shaya Prison. Without their approval, I can’t see Gao Zhisheng. As you know, we went there the year before the last, and they wouldn’t let me see him. On the morning of the day before yesterday and on the morning of three days ago, I called Shaya Prison. They didn’t take the calls. There’s nothing I can do here.”

Zhang: “In the past, you had to report at the local government before you went to visit your brother at Shaya. Was this a regulation from Shaya or from the local government?”

Gao Zhiyi: “Twice I went there, and twice I had to bring with me a letter of introduction from the Jia County Police Station. This means I had to have an appointment with Shaya.”

Zhang:“For this telephone number of Shaya Prison, have you ever got through to Shaya with this number?”

Gao Zhiyi: “Yes, I have gotten through.”

Zhang: “What do you plan to do next?”

Gao Zhiyi: “There’s nothing I can do. I’m waiting. I’ll think about it when I can get through to them.”

Gao Zhisheng and a brief introduction to Gao’s case
Gao Zhisheng, a Chinese rights defense lawyer who will turn 50 in three months, has been involved in the defense cases of the oil fields in Northern Shaanxi, Falun Gong and other cases. From December 2004 to December 2005, he wrote three open letters to the highest leaders in China, demanding that they stop persecuting Falun Gong practitioners. In November 2005, Shengzhi Law Firm of Beijing, where he worked as a director, was shut down by Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice. On August 15, 2006, Gao Zhisheng was kidnapped by the police, and on Dec. 22 of the same year, he was sentenced to three years in prison with five years’ probation on the conviction of “inciting to subvert the state power.” He was deprived of his political rights for one year and he went back home.

In September 2007, Gao Zhisheng was once again arrested. After he was released, his article “Dark Night, Dark Hood and Kidnapping by Dark Mafia” was circulating around in which he described the torture he suffered, including the description of how the authorities inserted a toothpick into his genitals. Lawyer Gao Zhisheng won the Courageous Advocacy Award issued by the American Board of Trial Advocates and other human rights awards.

On the early morning of Feb. 4, 2009, right in front of his relatives, he was kidnapped from his home in his native own and disappeared. At the end of March 2010 and early April 2010, he appeared in public for a little over 10 days during which he could talk with the outside world. After that, he was made to disappear again.

At the end of 2011 when lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s five-year reprieve was about to expire and 21 months after he was made to disappear, he was sent to Shaya Prison in Xinjiang to serve the three years he was sentenced [to in 2006].

On March 24, 2012, for the first time in two full years after lawyer Gao Zhisheng was made to disappear for 21 months and was detained for three months, his family saw Gao Zhisheng. After that, his family couldn’t get in direct contact with the prison and was not allowed to visit him until Jan. 12, 2013, when they visited him for the second time.

The police didn’t allow his family to ask Gao Zhisheng about his life in the prison during their visits. His family wanted to leave more money to Gao Zhisheng, but the prison said: “You can only leave up to 600 yuan (US$99) per visit.” While other inmates can have a visit once a month, there has been no news of Gao Zhisheng for the whole year.

‘It has already been a whole year since his family visited him for the second time.’
Now, lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s wife, Geng He, who is in America, received my interview on Jan. 9.

Geng He: “It has already been a whole year since our family visited him for the second time. During this period, his eldest brother often called Yulin Public Security Bureau, and they have always been offering excuses and never gave him an accurate answer. When he called, either there was nobody taking the call or occasionally a Uyghur person took up the phone. There’s nothing we can do.”

Zhang: “You mean a Uyghur person took up the phone and spoke the Uyghur language. Is that so?”

Geng He: “Yes, yes. Our family didn’t understand what they said. In Gao Zhisheng’s case, all the procedures for the family members to visit Gao Zhisheng are illegal [according to regulations regarding visitation]. The law says one can visit inmates once a month and can receive letters from Gao Zhisheng, and he can call us. However, we have got none of these. When we, the family members, want to visit Gao Zhisheng, we spend a year’s efforts to no avail. Once, when we wanted to go there, we were all required to go to the local Public Security Bureau and Jia County government to get a certificates of proof [of identification]. At my mother’s place, we are also required to get a certificate of proof [of identification].

“After we got the certificates, we then called Yulin Public Security Bureau, and they again never answered. After a period of time, the certificates expired. We must have a certificate issued in recent days. In order to visit Gao Zhisheng, the family does these kinds of things every day. We made calls and got ready to receive the letter of introduction. After a year, they simply wouldn’t let us visit him.

“Now, we are worrying to no avail and have no means to solve the dilemma. When holidays come, we worry all the more, but still there’s nothing we can do to be able to visit him. Before this, we hired lawyers like Li Subin and wanted to visit Gao Zhisheng through the legal channel. On Aug. 27, 2012, the two lawyers, Li Xiongbing and Li Subin, went to Shaya Prison and were denied access to Gao Zhisheng. The authorities didn’t allow the lawyers to get involved.”

‘We, the family, worry about the health condition of Gao Zhisheng, and our son already can’t recall how his dad looks.’
Geng He: “Again, in the past year, there has been no news of Gao Zhisheng, and we in the family worry very much about the health condition of Gao Zhisheng. This is because when he temporarily appeared, and before he was taken away again, the media published his photo. We really worry very much about his health condition, and [our son] Tianyu often says: ‘Ah, when can my dad come over to us? I really can’t recall how he looks like. I don’t know either how he sounds like when he speaks.’”

Zhang: “How old was Tianyu when lawyer Gao left home in Beijing?”

Geng He: “He was a little over five. Now, he’s a little over 10. It’s already been five years. His impression of his father is almost thoroughly blurry, and he has no recollection of how he looks, let alone his voice. He said though he tried hard to recall how his father looks like, it is to no avail. As for [our daughter] Gege, I’ve noticed she sometimes is very busy studying life.”

‘On festive occasions more than ever, one thinks on one’s loved ones far away. Whenever a Spring Festival comes, we worry a lot about Gao Zhisheng, and it is also our saddest moment.’
Geng He said: “On festive occasions more than ever, one thinks of one's loved ones far away. I hope our family members can see Gao Zhisheng during holidays. When we see Gao Zhisheng, we feel better at heart. Otherwise, when we in the family call each other, the first words we say to each other are greetings. Then, the next we talk about is “we don’t know how he is doing now.” For five years, Gao Zhisheng has not spent the Spring Festival with his family. When we celebrate the Spring Festival, we are not really that happy. Each time when we celebrate the Spring Festival, it is the time when we worry about Gao Zhisheng the most, and it is also our saddest time.

“Greetings we say to each other during the Spring Festivals actually aim at asking for some news of Gao Zhisheng. I guess that if things are not well about him, the authorities may not let his family see him. The authorities can let his family visit him only when his health condition improves. Otherwise, why don’t they let us, the family, visit Gao Zhisheng? Why don’t they let us?

“This happens once a month, and you do so according to procedures. They should give us a phone number of the prison’s administrative department, so we can make an appointment for the next month’s meeting, and the next month we make an appointment again. They should let us have a procedure of making the appointments. Instead, they gave us nothing. Nothing at all. When they did give us a phone number, we can’t get through to them with it. Nobody has a method of visiting him in his case. All of us get together and try to think of a way of visiting you.”

U.S. Congress planning “Defending Freedoms” hearing, Geng He and others will give testimonies
Geng: “On Jan. 16, I will again go to a hearing in Washington D.C. Recently, I had to write articles. What an effort in writing these articles!”

Geng He just mentioned that she would go to the U.S. Congress for a testimony on Jan. 16 and now she is writing the speech.

Pastor Bob Fu, president of China Aid Association, a non-governmental organization in the U.S. that has been watching the human rights conditions in China, received my interview and talked about this coming Congressional hearing.

Bob Fu: “Yesterday, I was told by the assistant of Congressman Wolf about the hearing, and he said Geng He would be attending the hearing. The hearing will be held at 10 a.m. in Room 210 of U.S. Capitol Visitor Center on Jan. 16, and the hearing is entitled “Defending Freedoms—Highlighting the Plight of Prisoners of Conscience around the World.” This is a special hearing, specially held by the Congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission to show concern for the prisoners of conscience around the world, and it is not held for China only. This is because the president of Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission is Congressman Frank Wolf, and he specializes in… the Defending Freedom Project. He has chosen to advocate for lawyer Gao Zhisheng. This is because this project was founded through a joint initiative between Amnesty International, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and me.

This hearing is divided into two stages.

In the first stage, there will be two people giving testimony: Robert P. George, the current chair of the U.S. Commission of International Religious Freedom, who is also a professor at Princeton University. He will be joined by Frank Jannuzi, Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, and head of the Washington, D.C. office.

Several speakers will testify in the second stage: The first one is Natan Sharansky, a writer who was once jailed in the Soviet Gulag. The second one is Geng He, wife of lawyer Gao Zhisheng. There will be the lawyer for a prisoner of conscience who is jailed in Bahrain, in the Middle East. Jim McGovern, co-chairman of Tom Lantos Foundation, has chosen him for advocacy. Another speaker will be the mother of an imprisoned Vietnamese labor activist. Still another is a writer.

‘What worries me the most is the health condition of lawyer Gao Zhisheng. I call on the Chinese government to release him as soon as possible.’
Pastor Bob Fu talked about his concern for the current health condition of lawyer Gao Zhisheng.

Bob Fu: “We worry very, very much about the health condition of lawyer Gao Zhisheng in Shaya Prison. This is because it has been almost a year (it was two days to a year at the time of the interview) since we heard from him last. No relatives or lawyers could visit him during this period. The last time his family members saw him, he was very thin and his face showed he was obviously very weak and unhealthy.

“In this past year… Gao Zhisheng’s eldest brother, his younger brother and his wife, Geng He, have all appealed and requested to visit him. Yet, the authorities still refuse to let his family members have any chance to see lawyer Gao Zhisheng again. Therefore, what we worry the most is lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s physical and mental condition in prison. According to the sentence the Chinese government has given him (his actual sentence after a probation of five years, which authorities say he violated), he will finish serving the prison term this year. We call on the Chinese government to release lawyer Gao Zhisheng as soon as possible and give him his freedom so that he can reunite with his family. This has been our appeal all these years.”

The above interview program of “Journey of the Soul” from Radio Free Asia is edited and produced by Zhang Min in Washington D.C., U.S.A.

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