The wife of a prominent Chinese rights lawyer just released from prison has renewed her call for the United States to step up diplomatic pressure on Beijing to allow him to join his family in California and seek medical treatment after years of neglect, torture and solitary confinement.
U.S.-based Geng He, wife of dissident lawyer Gao Zhisheng, has already spoken of the "relentless and horrific torture" meted out to her husband, who was released last month from Xinjiang's remote Shaya prison after three years in solitary confinement.
Gao, 52, is currently under 24-hour surveillance by state security police at the home of Geng's sister in the northwestern region.
Geng fled China after Gao "disappeared" for more than a year, arriving in the United States with the couple's two children in 2009.
"Since he came home on Aug. 7, his home has been turned into another jail," Geng told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington on Tuesday.
"The police visit him twice a day, morning and afternoon, and stay for two or three hours at a time."
"The family is unable to go to work or live normal lives."
She said Gao had begged to be taken back to jail.
"It may be your job to visit me every day," Geng quoted him as telling police. "But my family can't get on with their jobs, their lives."
"Please take me back to jail."
Calling on Obama
Geng called on U.S. President Barack Obama to intervene with Beijing and allow Gao to be reunited with his family.
"I want the U.S. to lead the international community as the voice of justice, because...if this is how China treats one individual, then I as an individual am powerless against it," she said.
Sophie Richardson, China Director at the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), said Gao's case showed a distinct deterioration in the way the ruling Chinese Communist Party treats dissidents.
"China's human rights record has shown a clear decline in the past year," Richardson told RFA at Geng's briefing.
"The authorities are clearly taking a harder line and stepping up their crackdown."
She said rights activists, policy researchers and citizen campaigners for greater transparency had all been targeted.
"They are all receiving much harsher punishments than before," Richardson said. "[This is a matter] of great concern."
Meanwhile, Geng based her appeal to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry on humanitarian grounds.
"When he returned home, Gao weighed just 137 pounds compared with 175 pounds before and had a limp," she told reporters.
"He can barely speak, he is white as a sheet and has no normal color at all," she said.
"His speech is slurred, and his reactions are slow and sluggish," she said.
Once a prominent lawyer lauded by the Communist Party, Gao fell afoul of the government after he defended some of China's most vulnerable people, including Christians, coal miners and followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.
China's embattled legal professionals are being increasingly targeted by official harassment, detention and beatings for speaking out on human rights issues or defending politically sensitive clients.
Many public interest law firms are struggling to renew their business licenses, although rights groups say there is little purpose to the annual licensing scheme for lawyers and law firms, besides the exertion of state control over the legal profession.
New rules introduced in the past two years ban lawyers from defending certain clients, and leave them vulnerable to being charged themselves with subversion if they defend sensitive cases.
Of more than 204,000 lawyers in China, only a few hundred risk taking on cases that deal with human rights, particularly when linked to the rights of Falun Gong followers, according to Amnesty International.
Reported by He Ping for RFA's Mandarin Service and by Pan Jiaqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.