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Call to release human rights lawyer

HONG KONG (SE): February 4 marked the fifth anniversary of the disappearance of Gao Zhisheng. The two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Christian lawyer was arrested and imprisoned for his defence of the rights of persecuted religious minorities in China.

The 49-year-old was arrested at his home in 2009 by the Chinese authorities. He had previously had his licence revoked after being found guilty of inciting to subvert state power.

While undergoing interrogation, Gao is believed to have been tortured, Christian Today says in a report published on February 5.

It says that he was hit with electrified batons and that a toothpick inserted into his genitals. His law practice in Beijing was also shut down.

He was held until he was sentenced to three years prison in 2011. He remains behind bars in Shaya Prison in Xinjiang province.

Though his family was initially granted the right to visit Gao in prison, where he told them he was being brutally treated by prison guards, it has not been allowed to do so for the past year.

During his last visit, Gao’s brother was forbidden to ask him about prison conditions and described his brother as emaciated with a sore on his face.

His family is worried about the lawyer’s health and is still pursuing his release. They have, however, escaped from China and fled to the United States of America (US), as every member was being closely monitored by the Chinese authorities and they were concerned for their own safety.

Colin King, the United Kingdom director of Release International, a non-government organisation which works to support persecuted Churches, has expressed concern for Gao and called on the Chinese authorities to revoke his sentence.

“Release is urging China to set him free and allow him to return to his family,” he says.

Gao is not the only lawyer to be persecuted in China. At the end of January, Xu Zhiyong, a prominent human rights advocate who is well known for his anti-corruption and human rights campaigns, was given a four-year prison sentence for disrupting public order.

“Other Christian lawyers have also come under surveillance and intimidation,” King claims.

Nevertheless, Gao’s family is maintaining hope that he will soon be reunited. 

His wife, Geng He, recently appealed before congress in Washington, where she urged the US government to actively seek her husband’s release.

“I hope Gao’s case can draw attention from President Obama and the secretary of state. Only their attention can bring relatively stronger protection of Gao Zhisheng’s safety,” she told the congress.

“Each time I left for the hearing, our son would ask me, ‘Mum, where are you going?’ I always said to search for your dad, but never accomplished my words. 

“This New Year I told them you would receive birthday presents from your dad this year. My son was very happy for that,” she said.

 

“He told his teacher and classmates that my dad will attend my graduation ceremony this year. I hope these two wishes of our children will come true in 2014,” He concluded.

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