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4/1/2011 China (TheGospelHerald) – A U.N. human rights agency has demanded that the Chinese government release Christian lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has gone missing for nearly a year.

Gao is a self-taught lawyer who fought for human rights in legal cases involving medical malpractice, land redistribution, employment disputes, and forced sterilization of pregnant women under China’s one-child policy. He is perhaps best known, however, for defending journalists and religious minorities including house church Christians and practitioners of the Falungong spiritualist movement. Gao is a member of the house church community.

“The U.N. Working Group held that the detention violated international law because Gao’s disappearance was punishment for exercising his fundamental human rights and because the government failed to meet even the minimum international standards for due process,” the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said in a statement.

Under international law, arbitrary arrest without due process is illegal and considered a crime against humanity.

The United Nations statement was only made public by rights advocacy group Freedom Now on Monday, although the agency had sent that statement to Chinese officials last July. China’s Foreign Ministry has yet to respond to the U.N. working group’s statement.

On Sunday, Gao’s wife, Geng He, wrote to President Barack Obama pleading for her husband’s release in a commentary published in New York Times. Geng He is currently living in the U.S. with their two children after receiving political asylum.

“The Chinese government must not be allowed to claim that China is a nation operating under the rule of law while persecuting those who try to ensure that it respects the law,” she wrote.

Gao disappeared again last April after having been released following international outcry. He had prior to that disappeared from his relative’s home in the Shaanxi province in early February 2009.

Two weeks before his 2010 abduction, Gao had met a reporter with The Associated Press. At a Beijing teahouse where he was interviewed, Gao revealed that during his detention he was hooded and beaten on multiple occasions. Among the tortures he endured, Gao described being jabbed with electric batons and having lit cigarettes held close to his eyes.

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