Dissident's Plight Clouds Hu visit

A report emerges that Chinese police harshly punished a rights lawyer for defending public interests.

2011.01.10
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Gao-Zhisheng-305.jpg Gao Zhisheng during an interview at his office in Beijing, Nov. 2, 2005.
AFP

The wife of a missing prominent Chinese civil rights lawyer said she plans to travel to Washington to highlight her husband's plight during President Hu Jintao's visit, after a new report showed that the attorney was severely tortured in police custody.

Gao Zhisheng, who has defended some of China's most vulnerable people and advocated constitutional reform, disappeared in February 2009, re-emerged to speak briefly to friends and colleagues in March 2010, and has not been heard of since.

The Associated Press (AP) news agency ran on Monday a gripping interview with Gao that was conducted in Beijing in April last year during his brief respite, in which he highlighted the torture he suffered at the hands of the Chinese police.

The police stripped Gao bare and pummeled him with handguns in holsters, AP said. "For two days and nights, they took turns beating him and did things he refused to describe."

"When all three officers tired, they bound his arms and legs with plastic bags and threw him to the floor until they caught their breath to resume the abuse."

Gao had asked that his account not be made public unless he went missing again or made it to "someplace safe" like the United States or Europe. The AP said it decided to publish his account "given the length of his current disappearance."

'Planning stages'

Geng He, Gao's wife, told RFA in an interview Monday from California, where she and her children now live, that she plans to travel to Washington during Hu's visit on Jan. 18-21, during which he will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House and be feted to a state banquet.

She said the trip was "still in the planning stages" and did not disclose any details.

Geng He said that she was stunned by the AP report, which also quoted Gao as saying his captors tied him up with belts, made him sit motionless for up to 16 hours, and told him his children were having nervous breakdowns. They threatened to kill him and dump his body in a river.

"'You must forget you're human. You're a beast,'" Gao said his police tormentors told him in September 2009, AP reported. 

"That degree of cruelty, there's no way to recount it," the civil rights lawyer said. "For 48 hours my life hung by a thread."

The beatings were the "worst" he said he ever endured and the darkest point of 14 months, ending last March, during which Gao was secretly held by Chinese authorities.

“This is the first time that I heard about the details. My husband did not tell me … would not tell me … how he was tortured," Geng He told RFA, sobbing.

Crooked teeth

She recollected that a photograph of Gao, published in April 2010 when he was briefly freed, appeared to show that he had been tortured.

"From the photo I could tell that he had been horribly mistreated and tortured. During a telephone conversation with him I said to him, ‘I see in the photo that your teeth are crooked. You should get your teeth checked.’ He didn’t say anything."

"After he disappeared again, I asked my dad how Gao Zhisheng was doing. My dad told me, ‘Don’t ask so many questions. You should just take care of your children. We are extremely fortunate that he came back alive.'"

Geng He said the human rights situation in China "has not improved, they are getting worse," citing the death of another Chinese activist Li Hong in December last year, after having been mistreated in prison.

Gao, she said, had repeatedly asked that he be sent to a prison but the Chinese authorities would not allow it.

"Going to a regular prison was a luxury for him … They wanted to keep him in a secret location so they could do whatever they wanted to him. I am really worried, deeply worried."

"I think of him all the time … Our son … our son woke up crying in the middle of the night … I asked him, ‘What’s wrong?’ He said, ‘I dreamed of daddy. We lost daddy all this way … Daddy failed to grab our hands.'" 

Expressing concern

Geng He appealed to governments and international organizations and friends to express concern to the Chinese authorities over Gao's plight.

Gao's daughter, Grace Geng, 17, had last year called directly on President Obama to raise the missing lawyer's plight with Hu during the G20 summit in Seoul in November.

"If the Chinese government has murdered my father, I beg President Obama to ask President Hu to let us bury him," she wrote in an open letter.

Reported by An Pei for Radio Free Asia's Mandarin service. Translated by Jennifer Chou. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

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Anonymous
Jan 12, 2011 05:09 AM

May God protect and help the lawyer and his family. May the word of the daughter give courage to Obama to challenge the evil Hu, otherwise, he is of same kind.