Washington, D.C.: Freedom Now can confirm that renowned Chinese human-rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng was released yesterday from Shaya County Prison in Xinjiang in far western China. He was picked up from prison by his older brother Gao Zhiyi and has traveled to his father-in-law’s home in Urumqi accompanied by a heavy Chinese security presence.
Gao’s wife Geng He said: “I spoke to my husband for the first time in four years. While the conversation was brief, I could tell that he wasn’t the same. I am deeply concerned that he has been seriously tortured in custody. I call on the Chinese Government to allow me and our children Grace and Peter to be reunited with Gao. Until that happens, our ordeal is not yet over.”
Freedom Now has served as pro bono counsel to Gao Zhisheng since 2010. Jared Genser, Gao’s international lawyer remarked: “While Gao has been released from prison, it is abundantly clear he is not yet free. Until he is reunited with his wife and children, our work will continue. I call on the Chinese government to remove the security cordon around Gao, to let him speak freely and meet with anyone he chooses, to allow him to travel freely, both in China and abroad.”
Gao, 50, a self-taught advocate and early leader of the Weiquan legal rights movement, was named among the country’s top ten lawyers by the Ministry of Justice in 2001. However, he became a target of government repression after representing some of China’s most vulnerable citizens, including religious minority groups, factory workers, coal miners, and victims of government land seizures. Originally given a suspended three-year sentence with five years probation for “inciting subversion of state power,” he was repeatedly detained, disappeared, and tortured by the Chinese government. Even though he had been disappeared for more than three years, in December 2011, state media reported he had been sent back to prison for “seriously violating probation rules.” Previously, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that his detention by the Chinese Government was in violation of international law. And Gao’s case was repeatedly raised by foreign government officials, human rights groups, and the media over the many years he has been persecuted.
Gao’s wife will speak in front of the Chinese Consulate in San Franscisco at 10 am PST, 1 pm EST.
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