[UPDATED June 2014]
"Gao Zhisheng is due to be released in August 2014. His sentence also included one year's subsequent deprivation of political rights. It is unclear what will happen to Gao Zhisheng after his release, and it is therefore vital that there is sustained pressure on the Chinese authorities in the lead-up to this date."
-- Amnesty International
Prisoner of Conscience Gao Zhisheng 高智晟
Group 22 has been working since March 2010 on the case of
human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (pronounced Gow Jir-sheng). He was detained in
February 2009 in Shaanxi Province, China. Except for a few weeks in 2010, his whereabouts were unknown
for the following three years. Brutally tortured during his enforced disappearance,
he is now serving a 3-year sentence in remote Shaya prison.
Gao Zhisheng passed his bar exam in 1995 and went on to
represent many victims of human rights violations. China's Ministry of Justice
named him one of the top ten lawyers of 2001. He began to defend members of the
spiritual group Falun Gong in 2005 and to write open letters calling for
religious freedom. The government revoked his law license in November
2005. About a year later a secret
court trial for "inciting subversion of the state" resulted in a suspended prison
sentence of three years. He and his family then endured several years of
constant police harassment while he was under house arrest.
Gao Zhisheng said he was subjected to torture while in
pre-trial detention in 2006. In September 2007 he was taken from his home by
plainclothes police and held incommunicado for six weeks, during which he
endured violent beatings and electric shocks to his genitals. He also suffered days
of partial blindness due to lit cigarettes held close to his eyes for
In February 2009, shortly after his wife and children fled
China, Gao Zhisheng was taken away by security agents and disappeared
completely. International pressure for information about him elicited confusing
answers from Chinese officials, claiming first that he had gone missing and
then that he "was where he was supposed to be".
On March 31, 2010, he suddenly reappeared in northern China.
During his brief contacts with the outside world, he said that he was giving up
activism and now wished only to be reunited with his family. But only a few
weeks later, before his wish could be realized, he again disappeared, reportedly
into police custody.
For the next 20 months, enquiries from his family and friends met with no
answers from Chinese authorities.
April 2010 interview
with Associated Press which was released in January 2011, Gao Zhisheng said
that the torture during the year of his secret detention was worse than
anything he had previously experienced.
On December 16, 2011, China's official news agency announced that Gao Zhisheng would begin serving
a three-year prison sentence because he had violated the terms of his probation. Nothing was said about his whereabouts. On January 1, 2012, Gao Zhisheng's brother received official notice of Gao's arrival
at Shaya Prison in the remote western province of Xinjiang. The brother and other family members
made the 2000-mile journey to Shaya Prison as soon as they could make travel arrangements, but were turned away and told that Gao could not yet have visitors. Gao's family were anxious and upset, wondering whether he was even alive.
Finally on March 24, 2012, Gao's brother and father-in-law were permitted a closely supervised 30-minute visit with Gao. They reported to Gao's wife and other family members that Gao appeared okay, although pale.
Gao's family and lawyers were permitted no further contact with him until January 12 of 2013, when his father-in-law and his younger brother were allowed a brief visit. They were warned not to discuss his case or prison conditions or the visit would be ended immediately. They reported that he seemed alert and walked without assistance.
His case was featured in Amnesty's December 2012 Write-a-thon -- our cards and letters may have helped persuade the authorities to grant permission for the second family visit.
Gao Zhisheng is scheduled to be released in August 2014, but there have been no contacts at all with him since January 2013.
Actions That You Can Take
- Add your voice to those assuring Gao Zhisheng that he is not forgotten. Send him a card with a message of solidarity and support. Use a Global "forever" stamp, which costs $1.15 as of June 2014.
P.O. Box 15, Sub-box 16
Shaya County 842208
Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region
People's Republic of China
- Write to authorities in China.
Here are updated guidelines, bullet points, and addresses
from the Amnesty International Case Dossier on Gao Zhisheng.
- Sign the
to free Gao Zhisheng.
- Check the current Group 22 newsletter
for actions in behalf of Gao Zhisheng.
More About Gao Zhisheng
Rights Readers blog:
Gao Zhisheng is the author of A China More Just, published in 2007.
Scroll to the
bottom of the page to see a current news search window for Gao Zhisheng.
CECC (Congressional-Executive Commission on China) Hearing on Gao Zhisheng.
This Feb 2012 hearing included testimony from Geng He (Gao's wife), Bob Fu of ChinaAid, and Jared Genser of Freedom Now. Scroll down to the recorded live webcast.
Twitter page dedicated to GaoZhisheng
Transcending Fear: The Story of Gao Zhisheng
Watch the trailer for this film, read an essay by the director, rent or buy the 90-minute film.
More About Human Rights in China
China Aid. You can type Gao Zhisheng into the Search Box.
Click on the Campaigns tab to see their Gao Zhisheng page.
Amnesty International 2013
Annual Report (China)
China Country Page
Factbook for China
US State Dept Report (2013) Human Rights, China
Group 22 Home Page