(Updated 12 September 2021)
Still missing four years after being disappeared!

Prisoner of Conscience Gao Zhisheng 高智晟




Gao Zhisheng (pronounced Gow Jir-sheng), a former prisoner of conscience and human rights lawyer, has been subjected to enforced disappearance. No information about his whereabouts are known since he was taken away from his home in Yulin City, Shaanxi, northwest China, on 13 August 2017. Gao Zhisheng previously shared his experience of repeated torture in detention as a result of his work, raising fears that he is at high risk of torture and other ill-treatment or even death.

Gao Zhisheng is one of the most respected human rights lawyers in China, with the Ministry of Justice naming him "one of the nation's top 10 lawyers" in 2001 for his pro bono work on public interest cases. Despite this, Gao Zhisheng has been subjected to enforced disappearance, torture, illegal house arrest and detention as a result of his work, which includes representing human rights activists and working on other politically sensitive cases. Amnesty International campaigned for Gao Zhisheng between 2008 and 2015. (Gao was Group 22's adopted Prisoner of Conscience from 2010 to 2015.)

Gao's case is being re-opened by Amnesty International because he has disappeared and his whereabouts is unknown. On August 13, 2017, Gao Zhisheng's wife Geng He, who fled to the United States in 2009 after repeated instances of harassment and abuse by Chinese authorities, posted on Twitter that she had tried to call Gao but had been unable to reach him for two days. She then contacted his elder brother, Gao Zhiyi, who told her that he had visited Gao Zhisheng's home, which is in Xiaoshibanqiao village, Shaanxi Province, that morning and found no one there. Gao Zhiyi reported Gao Zhisheng missing to the police on the same day. Local police denied that he was being held in police custody and even conducted a ground search for him shortly after he was reported missing.

After receiving no information for over three weeks, Gao Zhisheng's family finally learned on September 5, 2017 that he had been taken to Beijing. The government official who relayed this news to his elder brother refused to provide details about Gao Zhisheng's exact whereabouts, his current condition, or the grounds for his detention. Since then, Gao's family has received no additional information or official notification of his arrest.

The manner in which Gao Zhisheng vanished without a trace and was subsequently found to be held under incommunicado detention is characteristic of a larger pattern in which Chinese authorities round up outspoken or dissenting voices.

Amnesty International has reported on previous occurrences of Gao Zhisheng being subjected to residential surveillance, arbitrary confinement, incommunicado detention and imprisonment between 2006 and 2014, during which time he was subjected to torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment. These past experiences have raised deep fears that he is currently at risk of being subjected to similar treatment.

After Gao Zhisheng went missing in 2017, at least three of his activist friends in China were detained, seven were summoned and two were given verbal warnings by police. His elder brother Gao Zhiyi was also briefly detained for several hours on August 26, 2017. It is believed that these were attempts by the authorities' to silence critics and conceal any information about Gao Zhisheng's current status.

Local activists following Gao Zhisheng's case have expressed concern that his present incommunicado detention may be an act of retaliation by Chinese authorities in response to his open and sharp criticism of the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party. In an interview with a Hong Kong-based magazine in June 2017, Gao criticized the Communist Party and President Xi Jinping. In the same period, Gao Zhisheng's written memoirs of the years he was detained and tortured by Chinese authorities were published in Taiwan.



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More About Gao Zhisheng

Rights Readers blog:
Gao Zhisheng is the author of A China More Just, published in 2007.

Los Angeles Times, September 12, 2014 Interview with Geng He, Gao's wife.
"In China, Leaving Prison Does Not Mean Freedom"

Transcending Fear: The Story of Gao Zhisheng
Watch the 90-minute film, 2013.

The Bravest Lawyer in China.
Tribute to Gao Zhisheng by his friend Teng Biao, August 2019.

China Aid, May 2020. Lawyer missing for more than 1000 days.
China Aid, April 2020. Disappeared lawyer receives Lin Zhao Freedom Award.

More About Human Rights in China

CECC (Congressional-Executive Commission on China)
Republicans and Democrats work together on human rights issues!
Hearings, press releases, political prisoner data base.

Freedom Now
Past campaigns for Gao Zhisheng and other prisoners of conscience in China.

Amnesty International Country Page for China
AIUSA China Country Page
CIA Factbook for China
US State Dept Report (2019) Human Rights, China



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