March 29, 2010: Updated 6:30 PM CST
SHANXI–On Sunday, March 28, 2010, missing human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng spoke to his wife and children for the first time in over a year, confirming he is still alive. False rumors of his death, torture, and escape from the custody of the Chinese Government have shrouded Gao’s absence with mystery. Gao’s brief phone conversations with western media on Sunday mark the first official contact the public has had with him since his abduction by police on February 4, 2009.
Over the phone, Gao informed AP and Reuters reporters that he had been released from detention six months ago, and had taken up residence at Wutai Shan mountain, a Buddhist landmark in northern Shanxi province. He refused to give details on his condition, saying he could not legally give interviews.
Close friend and fellow human rights lawyer Li Heping also confirmed he had spoken with Gao on Sunday. “It’s certainly him. I spoke to him over the phone. I could tell from the way he spoke and the way he spoke to me that it’s him.” When Li asked to visit, Gao refused to give him details on his whereabouts, saying he had “friends around him”–indicating he was being held under close surveillance by Chinese authorities.
Gao’s wife Geng He and two children were overwhelmed with emotion and relief as they spoke with him on Sunday morning. Tthe children could not stop crying. Earlier today, Geng He released a statement, appealing to the Chinese Government to allow Gao Zhisheng to reunite with his family in the United States. According to reliable sources, the pressure on Geng He and the family has increased during Gao’s absence. Reports indicate Geng He’s parents have been severely harassed in recent months, due to their relationship to son-in-law Gao Zhisheng.
Gao has felt guilty for the backlash friends and family. He told the Associated Press, “I just want to be in peace and quiet for a while and be reunited with my family. Most people belong with family. I have not been with mine for a long time. This is a mistake and I want to correct this mistake.”
ChinaAid President Bob Fu confirmed the reports. “After examining Gao’s voice in the interview, I too am convinced that it is Gao.” ChinaAid has waged an international campaign to Free Gao for more than a year, circulating petitions and calling on the international community to raise awareness for Gao’s cause. Last week, prominent human rights attorney Dr. Li Baiguang joined President Fu in meeting with high-ranking members of the British and European Parliaments in London and Brussels, calling awareness to Gao’s cause. (See CAA report) They met with seven members of the Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast today, including First Minister Mr. Peter Robinson, who expressed particular concern for Gao Zhisheng.
“We are thankful for the assurance that Gao is alive and praise the more than 124,000 supporters in over 180 countries around the world who have signed the petition, and have not allowed him to be forgotten,” said Mr. Fu. “Due to the international pressure levied by these faithful supporters, the Chinese Government has been forced to respond and to allow Gao Zhisheng to reconnect with his loved ones.”
Mr. Fu further warned that the recent contact with Gao is only the beginning. “Yesterday’s events happened as a result of international pressure. But Gao is not free yet. His movements are still being watched and monitored. He is not free to speak publicly or without surveillance.”
“Gao Zhisheng is entitled to be free, according Chinese law, if he is not found in violation of laws during the probationary period. And according to international norms, he has the right to travel overseas to reunite with his family, if he has not violated his probation. As a defender and protector of the law, Gao Zhisheng has upheld his end. We must continue to press the Chinese government to free Gao Zhisheng and uncensor his movements, according to the law, and to allow him to reunite with his family.”
ChinaAid urges the international community to continue raising their voices in support of Mr. Gao Zhisheng. Thanks to international concern, Gao’s case has not been forgotten, and the Chinese government has been forced to respond.
Contact your local representative or embassy officials today, and call on the Chinese Government to Free Gao Zhisheng. Enlist the help of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to sign an initiative on Gao, and to uphold the international covenants on human rights.
For more information on Gao Zhisheng or to Sign the Petition, visit www.FreeGao.com.
This article references the following reports from Reuters, BBC News, the Associated Press, and Voice of America. Click to See full reports:
Well-known Missing Chinese Rights Lawyer ‘Alive.’–Reuters, 3/28/2010
Missing Chinese dissident lawyer Gao Zhisheng ‘Alive’–BBC News, 3/28/2010
Dissident’s wife pleas for China to let him leave.–The Associated Press, 3/29/2010
Missing Chinese Dissident’s Family Says ‘He’s Alive’–Voice of America, 3/29/2010
CORRECTION: Previous report indicated Gao’s wife and children were relieved and joyful in hearing from Gao. Recent news indicates they were extremely emotional and crying. On Monday morning, Geng He issued a formal statement, with the help of Freedom Now, a non-profit legal organization, calling on the Chinese Government to allow Gao Zhisheng to come to the United States to reunite with his family.
Missing Human Rights Attorney Gao Zhisheng Confirmed 'Alive'