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RFA: Will Gao Zhisheng be truly free after serving his sentence in prison?

ICC Note:

Gao Zhisheng, a Christian human rights lawyer in China, was tortured and imprisoned for defending religious minorities. According to the article, Gao Zhisheng is supposed to finish serving his 8-year sentence by August, 2014 (three years in prison and five years’ probation). Zhisheng’s family asked to pick him up from prison, but was told that “the prison would need to communicate with Beijing first.” ICC intends to closely follow the case.

By Zhang Min, program host of “Journey of the Soul” on July 12, 2014)

Translated by China Aid

07/18/2014 China (RFA)- Gao Zhisheng is going to finish serving his 8-year sentence, including three years in prison and five years’ probation. His family asked to pick him up from prison, but was told that the prison would need to communicate with Beijing first.

In 2006, Chinese rights defense lawyer Gao Zhisheng was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced to three years in prison with five years’ probation. Now his 8-year sentence is winding up.

On July 3, Gao’s wife, Geng He, who currently lives in the U.S., told me that Gao’s relatives in his hometown in northern Shaanxi province got through to Xinjiang Shaya Prison by phone and got some updates on Gao’s situation.

Geng He said, “I talked to his older brother on the phone last night. He said that he finally got through to Shaya Prison by phone and asked, ‘When can you allow us to visit Gao Zhisheng?’ The person answering the call said, ‘No need to come to visit him. He will be released on Aug. 7 after finishing his time in prison.’

“His older brother said, ‘But we still need to pick him up from prison.’ The person said, ‘The prison will need to communicate with Beijing about the specifics of his release. You just wait for further notice at home.’ That’s all we’ve heard so far.”

Geng He: After his release, Gao Zhisheng has the right to decide where to go next. It’s totally unacceptable if the police and Beijing control him again.

Host: How do you feel about his pending release?

Geng He: Of course, I’m very happy. At least we have a specific date that he will be released on—Aug. 7. Before that, we didn’t even know when he would come home.

But I’m also wondering if, after three years in prison with five years’ probation, [after] he will have served eight years, he’ll be a free man and come home on Aug. 7. Where does he want to go next? I think Gao Zhisheng and his family have the right to decide. It should not be decided and controlled by the police or prison after communicating with Beijing. I think that’ll be absolutely unacceptable.


A brief introduction of Gao Zhisheng and his case

Fifty-year-old Gao Zhisheng served as a defense counsel in the Cai Zhuohua Case and cases involving Falun Gong practitioners and (local people trying to protect their interest in) oil fields in northern Shaanxi province. From December 2004 to December 2005, Gao Zhisheng wrote three open letters to China’s top leaders demanding that they stop persecuting Falun Gong adherents. In November 2005, the Shengzhi Law Firm of Beijing, of which he was the director, was shut down by the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice.

On Aug. 15, 2006, Gao was kidnapped by the police. On Dec. 22, 2006, he was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced to three years in prison with five years’ probation, and deprived of political rights for one year. He was sent back home. In Sept. 2007, Gao Zhisheng was once again taken into custody. After his release, his article “Dark Night, Dark Hood and Kidnapping by Dark Mafia” was disseminated. In it, he describes the tortures he was subjected to during his detention, including the insertion of toothpicks into his genitals.

Gao Zhisheng won the American Board of Trial Advocates’ Courageous Advocacy Award as well as other human rights awards.

Before dawn on Feb. 4, 2009, in his hometown in northern Shaanxi province, Gao was kidnapped by the police right in front of his relatives. In late March and early April 2010, he resurfaced for about 10 days and then disappeared again.

In early 2009, Gao’s wife and children fled China. They were later granted political refugee status and settled in the United Sates.

Just as Gao’s five-year probation period was about to end and he had been forced into “disappearance” for 21 months, he was sent back to jail in Xinjiang Shaya Prison to serve his three-year prison sentence. On March 24, 2012, after he had disappeared for 21 months and was detained for three more months, his family saw him for the first time in two years, but they were not able to contact the prison directly after that. It was not until Jan. 12, 2012, when his family was allowed to have the second prison visit. Eighteen months have passed since that visit and his family has been denied visits to him to this day.

Geng He: His family has been pressured lately. His older brother said, ‘We are under lots of pressure. We don’t want our life ruined.’

In the afternoon of July 8 (American EDT), I interviewed Geng He again to talk about her feelings and the pressure imposed on Gao Zhisheng’s relatives in his hometown by the government.

Geng He said, “Certainly I hope… his relatives want to see him as soon as he’s released and they have prepared clothes for him, from underwear to outer garments, and made all arrangements to pick him up. I believe he will want to see his family members upon his release. But in the past few days, his relatives have felt pressured. For example, yesterday, which is July 7, I wanted to ask his younger brother for updates on his release, but his younger brother did not answer my call.

“I got through to his older brother. He said, “My goodness, we’re under so much pressure. We don’t want our life ruined. Runhui (Gao Zhisheng’s birth name) is such a strong man, but he still got thrown in jail and persecuted. How can peasants like us handle the persecution he suffered? We are more vulnerable.’ He wanted me to understand their circumstances.”

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