Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng, Missing for Weeks, Now in Police Custody in Beijing: Brother

Family still has little information about the once celebrated human rights lawyer.

Gao Zhisheng during an interview at his office in Beijing, in a file photo.

Human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng in in police custody in Beijing weeks after his family reported him missing from his cave dwelling in a remote village in the northern Chinese province of Shaanxi, his elder brother said on Thursday.

“We finally made contact with the government. They said he has been brought back to Beijing.  I learned this information from the government office two days ago,” Gao Zhisheng’s U.S.-based wife Geng He quoted Gao’s elder brother Gao Zhiyi, as saying by telephone from Shaanxi.

When asked if he could confirm that Gao Zhisheng is currently in police custody, his elder brother said: “He is now definitely in their hands. That is all we know at this moment.”

Gao Zhisheng, 53, who was being held under house arrest in Shaanxi after suffering long periods of incarceration and torture at the hands of police, had not been seen or heard from since Aug. 13, Geng He told RFA in an earlier report.

Gao Zhiyi was summoned and briefly held by police in late August an apparent move to silence criticism of authorities’ handling of Gao Zhisheng’s disappearance, sources said.

Geng fled to the U.S. with the couple's two children after Gao's last disappearance in 2009.

Gao Zhisheng, once a prominent lawyer feted by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, began to be targeted by the authorities after he defended some of China’s most vulnerable people, including Christians, coal miners, and followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.

In a published memoir, Gao details the torture he later endured at the hands of the authorities during his time in prison, as well as three years of solitary confinement, during which he said he was sustained by his Christian faith and his hopes for China.

Activists say his continuing house arrest even after being "released" from jail mirrors the treatment meted out to fellow rights lawyers and activists detained in a nationwide police operation since July 2015.

His friends had previously said he is unlikely to regain any measure of freedom before the ruling Chinese Communist Party's 19th congress in October.

Reported by Zhang Min and Lin Ping for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated by Chen Ping. Written in English by Paul Eckert.