Gao-Zhisheng

Gao ZhishengChina

Gao Zhisheng, 49, is one of China’s most prominent human rights lawyers as well as a husband and the father of two children. Mr. Gao was disappeared by the Chinese government on April 20, 2010 and was held incommunicado for more than 20 months. On December 16, 2011, the Chinese government announced that Mr. Gao had been sentenced to three years in prison for violating his parole and was imprisoned at Shaya County Prison in Xinjian on December 29, 2011.

Mr. Gao is a self-taught litigator whom the Chinese Ministry of Justice once praised as one of the country’s ten best lawyers. In 2005, after being denied access to the courts for taking on politically sensitive cases, Mr. Gao wrote open letters to both the National People’s Congress and the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, calling for an end to the torture of members of persecuted religious groups. Mr. Gao’s license to practice law was subsequently revoked, his law firm shut down, and his family placed under police surveillance.

On July 30, 2006, Mr. Gao was beaten by the police officers monitoring his home. Two weeks later, he was apprehended at his sister’s home, but authorities did not notify Mr. Gao’s family of his arrest until September 21, when he was charged with “inciting subversion.” After giving a forced confession in the face of threats against his children, Mr. Gao was convicted in December 2006 and given a suspended three-year sentence with five years’ probation, effectively placing him under house arrest.

In September 2007, Mr. Gao wrote an open letter to the U.S. Congress, detailing human rights violations in China. He was promptly apprehended and tortured, during which time authorities beat Mr. Gao with batons, held burning cigarettes to his face, and used toothpicks and electric shocks to pierce his genitals.

In January 2009, after years of government threats and constant, humiliating surveillance, Mr. Gao’s wife and two children secretly fled to the United States and sought asylum.

Mr. Gao disappeared on February 4, 2009, when he was again apprehended by security personnel without any notice to his family. After months of refusing to comment on Mr. Gao’s case, his brother traveled to Beijing in December 2009 to ask authorities about Mr. Gao’s whereabouts, only to be told he had “gone missing.” On January 21, 2010, the Chinese Foreign Ministry acknowledged for the first time the detention of Mr. Gao, stating “this person, according to Chinese law, is where he should be.”

Gao mysteriously reappeared on March 28, 2010, after a year of intense international pressure. He was briefly allowed to return to Beijing. In April 2010, Mr. Gao was instructed by government agents to visit his father-in-law in far Western China. On April 20, 2010, security agents told Mr. Gao to return to Beijing. However, Mr. Gao never arrived in Beijing.

For more than 20 months, Mr. Gao was held incommunicado. On December 16, 2011, the Beijing People’s First Intermediate Court ordered that Mr. Gao be imprisoned for three years to serve the full sentence imposed on December 22, 2006. State media reported that the Court withdrew Mr. Gao’s probation—set to expire the following week—claiming without explanation that Mr. Gao had “seriously violated probation rules a number of times.” Mr. Gao is currently imprisoned at the Shaya County Prison in a remote area of the Xinjian.

Freedom Now works with Jerome A. Cohen, Irwin Cotler MP, Albert Ho, David Matas, and David Kilgour to free Gao Zhisheng. Professor Cohen is considered the United States’ foremost expert in Chinese criminal law and procedure. He is both a professor at New York University Law School and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Professor Cotler is a Canadian Member of Parliament and served previously as Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General. He served as counsel to Nelson Mandela, in addition to other notable political prisoners. Mr. Ho is a Chairman of the Democratic Party (Hong Kong), a member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, and a solicitor. Mr. Matas is a lawyer in private practice and serves as senior counsel to B’nai B’rith Canada. Mr. Kilgour is a former Canadian Member of Parliament, Secretary of State, Asia Pacific, and Chairman of the Canadian Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Development.

Freedom Now represents Mr. Gao as his international pro bono legal counsel.

Selected documents from Gao Zhisheng's case
A Dissident's WIfeMarch 28, 2011

The New York Times op-ed by Gao's wife, Geng He, urging the international community to call for his release.

A World Away from China, Geng He Seeks Justice for Her Dissident HusbandFebruary 16, 2012

Washington Post style section article by Dan Zak chronicling Freedom Now’s advocacy efforts with Gao Zhisheng’s wife Geng He during Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's visit to Washington.

Again, Where is Gao Zhisheng?October 27, 2010

Wall Street Journal Editorial.

Canada Can Help an Imprisoned Chinese HeroMarch 11, 2010

The Mark Op-Ed by David Kilgour, urging Canada to act on Mr. Gao's case.

China's Missing Human Rights Lawyer March 19, 2010

International Herald Tribune Op-Ed by Jerome A Cohen and Beth Schwanke.

China’s Rule of Law: Go After the LawyersApril 9, 2013

Washington Post op-ed by Geng He and Chen Guangcheng highlighting the targeting of rights lawyers and their families in China.

Chinese Rights Lawyer Disappears Again April 30, 2010

New York Times article by Michael Wines documenting that Mr. Gao is again disappeared on April 20, 2010.

Criminalizing Dissent November 1, 2010

Ottawa Citizen Op-Ed by Irwin Cotler.

Demanding Justice for Gao ZhishengFebruary 27, 2014

Wall Street Journal op-ed by Freedom Now Founder Jared Genser calling for the international community to pressure the Chinese government to prove disappeared human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, is alive and release him from his unjust detention when his term expires this year.

Do We Have to Wait 30 Years for Human Rights in China?January 21, 2011

Op-Ed by Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt calling on President Obama to hold the Government of China accountable for its continued and illegal detention of Freedom Now clients Liu Xiaobo and Gao Zhisheng.

Empty Chairs in Oslo Speak VolumesNovember 11, 2010

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed by Jerome A. Cohen and Eva Pils.

Freedom Now Press Release August 5, 2010

Announcing that the American Bar Association selected Mr. Gao as a recipient of the organization's International Human Rights Lawyer Award.

Freedom Now Press ReleaseMarch 28, 2010

Announcing that Mr. Gao mysteriously reappeared on March 28, 2010.

Freedom Now Press ReleaseMarch 9, 2010

Announcing the petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Freedom Now Press ReleaseFebruary 4, 2010

Announcing the petition to the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances.

Grace Geng Speaks to the BBCNovember 1, 2010

Grace Geng, 17 year-old daughter of Gao Zhisheng, is interviewed by the BBC.

Harmful EffectsJanuary 25, 2012

South China Morning Post Op-Ed by Jerome A. Cohen and Jared Genser arguing that China’s international reputation is suffering because of the continuing disregard for the rule of law in the detention and torture of Gao Zhisheng.

In China, Repression is a Family AffairApril 26, 2013

Wall Street Journal op-ed by Freedom Now Founder Jared Genser calling on the international community to demand that the Chinese government respect fundamental human rights.

Letter from 30 Members of CongressJanuary 14, 2011

Calling on President Obama to raise human rights during China’s 2011 state visit and calling for the release of Liu Xiaobo and Gao Zhisheng.

Letter from 30 organizations to President Barack ObamaJune 5, 2013

Urging the US President to call for the release of Chinese prisoners of conscience during his bilateral summit with President Xi Jinping of China.

Letter from U.S. Representative Ros-LehtinenJanuary 14, 2011

Calling on President Obama to raise human rights during China’s 2011 state visit and calling for the release of Liu Xiaobo and Gao Zhisheng.

Letter Signed by 30 Members of CongressOctober 6, 2010

Urging President Obama to ask Chinese President Hu Jintao at the G20 summit in Seoul, South Korea from November 11-12, 2010, to release Liu Xiaobo and Gao Zhisheng.

Mr. Obama, Speak Up for Human Rights in China January 19, 2011

Washington Post Op-Ed by former Chinese political prisoner and Freedom Now client Dr. Yang Jianli.

Mystery of Chinese Lawyer Deepens March 16, 2010

BBC News article by Michael Bristow, noting that British Foreign Minister David Miliband raised Mr. Gao’s case publicly with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

Nobel Prize and human rightsOctober 13, 2011

The Korean Times op-ed by Freedom Now founder Jared Genser comments on the plight of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Liu Xiaobo, his wife, Liu Xia, and fellow Chinese prisoner of conscience, Gao Zhisheng.

Opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary DetentionMarch 28, 2011

Finding the detention of Mr. Gao a violation of international law.

Petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary DetentionMarch 9, 2010

Submitted by Freedom Now on behalf of Mr. Gao.

Petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention January 25, 2012

Submitted by Freedom Now on behalf of Gao Zhisheng.

Petition to the UN Working Group on Enforced Iinvoluntary Disappearances February 4, 2010

Submitted by Freedom Now on behalf of Mr. Gao.

Petition to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary DisappearancesFebruary 27, 2014

Submitted by Jared Genser and Freedom Now on behalf of Geng He.

Please Return My FatherOctober 27, 2010

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed by Grace Geng.

President Obama Makes Hu Jintao Look Good on RightsJanuary 19, 2011

Washington Post Editorial reaffirming call for release of Freedom Now clients Liu Xiaobo and Gao Zhisheng.

Q&A: Daughter Longs to Reunite with Chinese Dissident DadNovember 25, 2010

Voice of America interview with Gao Zhisheng’s daughter, Grace Geng, by Kate Woodsome.

Ritual Abuse February 18, 2010

South China Morning Post Op-Ep by Beth Schwanke.

Selected MediaMarch 29, 2010

Reporting Mr. Zhisheng's reappearance.

Submission to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human RightsMarch 4, 2013

Freedom Now submitted a report on behalf of Mr. Gao Zhisheng to be considered as part of the Universal Periodic Review of China's human rights policies and practices.

Testimony by Freedom Now Founder Jared GenserFebruary 14, 2012

At a hearing titled "The Case and Treatment of Prominent Human Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng" before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

Testimony by Mr. Gao's wife Geng He February 14, 2012

At a hearing titled, "The Case and Treatment of Prominent Human Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng" before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

Testimony of Freedom Now Founder Jared GenserJuly 25, 2012

At a hearing entitled "Investigating the Chinese Threat, Part Two: Human Rights Abuses, Torture and Disappearances" before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Testimony of Freedom Now Founder Jared GenserApril 9, 2013

At a hearing entitled “Chen Guangcheng and Gao Zhisheng: Human Rights in China” before the United States House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.

The Silencing of Gao ZhishengMay 31, 2010

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed by Jerome A Cohen and Beth Schwanke.

The U.S. Must Speak Out Against China's OffensesFebruary 4, 2010

Washington Post Op-Ed by Geng He, Mr. Gao's wife.

To combat China’s crackdown on dissidents, a new strategy is neededOctober 28, 2013

Washington Post op-ed by Freedom Now Founder Jared Genser calling on the Obama administration to adopt a new strategy to support human rights in China.

U.S. Senate Resolution 554September 13, 2012

Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Gao Zhisheng.

UN Press ReleaseDecember 23, 2011

UN Experts denounce secret detention of human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng.