Human rights advocate publishes review of lawyer's memoir

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Gao Zhisheng
(Photo: China Aid)

(Midland, Texas—March 23, 2017) A Christian human rights defender began a three-part series of blog posts regarding the memoir of a tortured human rights lawyer yesterday. 

Jinghong Cai, a Chinese Christian, dedicates her posts, which can be found on, to exposing religious freedom and human rights violations in her homeland. Recently, she read the memoir of Gao Zhisheng, a Christian human rights defense attorney whose efforts to defend groups unfairly targeted by the government prompted officials to repeatedly imprison and torture him.

The first installment of Cai's three-part review, which was published on March 22, has been reproduced below with her permission.

Additionally, First Things published an essay adapted from portions of Gao's book.

China Aid encourages the efforts of individuals such as Jinghong Cai to expose China's abuses in order that more people may stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.

By Jinghong Cai

(I would like to express my special thanks to the American Bar Association and Carolina Academic Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of Mr. Gao’s memoir. This blog is the first part of my book review of “Unwavering Convictions: Gao Zhisheng’s Ten-Year Torture and Faith in China’s Future.” Due to space limitations, I will complete the book review in a three-part series of blogs.)

Mr. Gao Zhisheng, the “No. 1 Political Prisoner” in the Chinese Communist Regime, survived 10years (2004 - 2014) torture in prison and various inhumane treatments. According to his memoir, he could maintain his victorious, defiant spirit against the dark regime, only thanks to his Christian faith and God’s amazing grace. As a lawyer and human rights defender in China, Mr. Gao is seen as an icon who has been vehemently fighting for human rights, including freedom of religion, against the evil Communist Party; For years, he defended Falun Gong practitioners as well as house church Christians.

Mr. Gao has been barred from contacting anybody outside China. He wrote his memoir in secret when he was under house arrest in an isolated village in the Shannxi province in northwestern China. Since the Chinese government has been relentlessly suppressing any disclosure of evidence about their criminal acts of torturing and persecuting political dissidents, Mr. Gao’s Chinese manuscript had to be smuggled out of China and published in Taiwan in June 2016. Later, this smuggled memoir was translated into English and published by the American Bar Association and other organizations in the United States, at the end of January, 2017.

In the memoir, “Unwavering Convictions: Gao Zhisheng’s Ten-Year Torture and Faith in China’s Future,” Mr. Gao described his 10-year experiences of being abducted, abused, tortured, and imprisoned by the Chinese Communist Party. One monumental contribution of Mr. Gao’s to the cause of human rights is that he investigated the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in 2005, and in 2006 he gave the evidence to the UN’s torture rapporteur, Dr. Manfred Nowak. Based on Mr. Gao’s evidence and other sources, Dr. Nowak estimated that about two-thirds of the seven to eight million prisoners in re-education and labor camps were practitioners of Falun Gong. In 1999, this religious group reached its peak and had some 70 to 100 million practitioners. Later, the world learned that thousands of them were brutally murdered as part of a lucrative organ transplant trade.

Mr. Gao’s memoir is about 170 pages long and consists of two sections. In the first section, Mr. Gao chronologically recorded each time how he was abducted, detained and tortured, while in the second section, he disclosed his dreadful experiences in prison. Reading the whole book is like walking through the “valley of the shadow of death,” filled with evil – the damp dark cells, the hideous tools used for torturing prisoners, and the wicked mockery of the secret police. Yet, in the midst of that darkness, Mr. Gao feared no evil, and there was always a blinking but unwavering candlelight.

When I read the memoir, three major points caught my eye. First and foremost, we, Chinese, like any other people in the world, love peace, life, freedom and justice. We believe in these unalienable rights just as the American people do; we believe no government, particularly the Chinese Communist Party, should brutally deprive citizens of life and liberty. As a pioneer of the Chinese human rights movement, Mr. Gao writes in his book, “My experience is just one part of the boundless suffering of the Chinese race under one of the cruelest regimes in human history” (p. 1).

The second impressive point is his testimony of God’s amazing grace. In today’s China, at least over 70 million people have reportedly accepted Jesus and become Christians. At the beginning of his memoir, Mr. Gao thanks those people, both inside and outside China, for following his situation and expressing concerns constantly. He believes that God not only has protected him through the concerns of these kind people, but also has sustained him in his time of trouble, and nurtured his faith. Mr. Gao also emphasizes that access to the Bible was not what convinced him to convert to Christianity; He accepted salvation, the gift of God, only after he was surrounded by other Christians. After becoming a Christian, Mr. Gao began having visions from God. His first God-given vision came after he was arrested in August 2006, and he saw God’s reassurance that his detention would not be prolonged.

Lastly, I was moved and inspired by the power of international support, which Mr. Gao referred to as “the unwavering attention of the foreign media.” In his book, Mr. Gao states that he was tortured again and again, but but his life was spared thanks to the international human rights watchdogs. In 2007, prior to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Mr. Gao published his “Open Letter to the US Congress” in the Western countries. He openly asked the international community to help Chinese people to peacefully abandon the tyranny and to establish a free, democratic and civilized new China. Mr. Gao’s petition won him respect from the United States and other Western countries, but at the meantime, he was resented more by the Chinese Communist Party. Because of his fame outside China, the Communist government secretly arrested him and tortured him, trying to break him into giving in and giving up.

Mr. Gao described how he was abducted on April 8, 2010 and experienced torture and imprisonment after he refused to stop contact with the world outside of China. Shortly after he met friends from America, Britain, Germany and Canada, the secret police told him, “If you insist on maintaining contact with the outside world, you will be arrested again in less than three days.” The secret police also ordered Mr. Gao, “If someone knocks on your door, don’t open it.” After Mr. Gao refused to follow the orders of the secret police, he was abducted again within forty-eight hours. (p. 60)

I read Mr. Gao’s memoir with a heavy heart. As a Chinese who grew up during the Cultural Revolution, I know the darkness of the regime is true. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can. Dismay is not a solution; only taking action, like Mr. Gao did is a solution. I encourage you, my fellow Chinese and my American friends, to join me in speaking out and defending those who are suffering under the totalitarian government in China.

ChinaAid Media Team
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