Gao Zhisheng is one of China’s famous human rights lawyers. Fighting for human rights only means one thing in the country — persecution. Gao’s fate has been no different from other rights activists, as he was arrested and tortured countless times. After his last disappearance two years ago, Gao’s wife is now pleading to the Chinese Communist Party to reveal the whereabouts of her husband.
Gao Zhisheng, the missing activist
The last time Gao was arrested was in August 2017. The authorities had picked him up from a cave-dwelling in the northern province of Shaanxi. “Over the past 10 years, Gao Zhisheng’s forced disappearances have become the norm in our lives… Before this one, the longest disappearance lasted 20 months, but it’s now been 24 months… This is because Gao Zhisheng, as a public interest lawyer, has represented the [banned] Falun Gong [spiritual] group, Christians, and the petitioners who have been persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party,” Geng, Gao’s wife, said to Radio Free Asia.
Geng currently resides in the U.S. and is therefore safe from the clutches of the Communist Party. She had fled China in 2009 with their two children. Her husband chose to stay back as Gao believed he had a duty to protect the rights of the people. The last time he was taken to prison, Gao returned home with almost no teeth. Geng is now worried that Gao might be suffering from even greater torture. She states that her family has gone through “endless suffering” due to her husband’s persecution.
Fighting for human rights
Gao was initially a member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The Ministry of Justice even ranked him one of the 10 best lawyers in the country at one time. But all this changed after he resigned from the Party in 2005.
Gao sent an open letter to the state leadership, accusing the government of running extrajudicial bases for dealing with practitioners of Falun Gong. Gao was soon put under security watch. In 2006, he was officially arrested. In a memoir, Gao accused the CCP of using the most immoral, savage means to torture citizens and called his resignation from the Party “the proudest day of my life.” Gao published an account of the torture he suffered during detention in 2007. The Party goons were using electric shock prods to inflict pain.
“My full body, my heart, lungs, and muscles began jumping under my skin uncontrollably. I was writhing on the ground in pain, trying to crawl away. Wang [one of the torturers] then shocked me in my genitals. My begging them to stop only returned laughing and more unbelievable torture. Wang then used the electric shock baton three more times on my genitals while shouting loudly. After a few hours of this I had no energy to even beg, let alone, try to escape,” he explains the torture (HRIC).
Gao has credited his commitment to fighting for human rights to his Christian identity, specifically the religion’s focus on compassion and morality. International organizations like Amnesty International have repeatedly asked the Chinese government to release Gao. However, Beijing has not given any indication about releasing the brave and steadfast activist.