Gao Zhisheng Alive

The Bangkok Post reports…


Gao Zhisheng, the human rights lawyer who has been missing for over a year, appears to be alive and is currently staying at a sacred Buddhist mountain in northern China, his close friends said Sunday.

“I spoke to Gao this afternoon,” Li Heping, a friend and fellow lawyer, told AFP.
“He is in Wutaishan (in Shanxi province) but he would not say his exact location. I asked him what his situation was like, how his health was, and he said ‘good’.”

Gao is a former Communist Party member who angered authorities by taking on rights cases targeting the government. His fate became a mystery and a topic of global concern after police took him from his home last year.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband even raised Gao’s case in talks earlier this month with Chinese leaders.

Li and prominent lawyer Teng Biao, another friend of Gao’s who also spoke to him on Sunday, both said they were sure it was him on the phone.

“I’m a good friend of his, and his manner of speaking, the words he uses, I’m very familiar with those,” said Li.

He added Gao told him he had friends with him and had to hang up, which Li said implied he might be closely watched by officials who did not want him to talk. Gao did not tell his friends exactly where he had been for over a year.

“We think there are people next to him, or that he has received a very big warning, that he’s scared,” said Teng.

Western reporters in Beijing have repeatedly pressed China for information on Gao, but the government has refused the requests.

The rights lawyer disappeared in February last year after his wife and two children sneaked out of Beijing to escape to the United States.

He has been an outspoken defender of people seeking redress from the government including coal miners, underground Christians and the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.

His biggest problems came after 2005 when he renounced his membership of the Communist Party and openly called for an end to the crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual group.

In December 2006, Gao was convicted of subversion and given a suspended sentence of three years in prison, immediately placed under house arrest and put on probation for five years.

After he wrote an open letter to the US Congress in 2007, Gao said he was subjected to several weeks of torture including suffering electric shocks to his genitals and having his eyes burned by cigarettes.