'His Life Hung by a Thread'

By Joshua Lipes
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china-geng-he-congress-april-2013.jpg Geng He at a congressional hearing in Washington, April 9, 2013.

Geng He, the wife of rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, escaped to the U.S. with her son and daughter in January 2009 following years of harassment and abuse by authorities because of her husband's work defending persecuted groups in China. In December 2011, four days before the end of a suspended three-year prison term, Gao Zhisheng was transferred to a prison in a remote part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and given an additional three-year jail term.

Since relocating to the U.S., Geng He, who is also an attorney, has worked tirelessly on her husband's behalf and as an advocate for all persecuted activists in China. On April 9, 2013 she testified before the global human rights subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives, saying her family has no information about Gao's well-being and asking the international community to keep pressing the Chinese authorities on his case "as the best way to protect him":

In April 2010, 14 months after Lawyer Gao disappeared, the Chinese government arranged for him to be interviewed by the Associated Press. During the interview, he did not follow the Chinese Communist government’s instructions in what he said; instead, he exposed and described in detail to the Associated Press the torture he had personally suffered. After that, the Chinese Communist police officers beat him for two days and two nights with the butt of a pistol. He said it was the most brutal torture he had ever suffered up to that point and his life hung by a thread. After that interview with the Associated Press, Lawyer Gao once again disappeared.

Because my daughter missed her father so much, she has had a nervous breakdown and often dreams that her father has left this world. Whenever Father’s Day comes, my son always cries and he has told his teachers over and over again in tears, “I don’t have a father.”

In December 2011, four days before the end of Gao Zhisheng’s [suspended] three-year prison term, the Chinese Communist Party's Xinhua News Agency released a report saying: “For the next three years, Gao Zhisheng will be locked up in a prison.” Shortly thereafter, at the end of 2011, Lawyer Gao Zhisheng was secretly transferred to far-away Shaya County Prison in the Aksu district of Xinjiang.

In the one year and four months that Gao Zhisheng has been held in that prison, family members have seen him only twice and each time the visit lasted only 30 minutes; 10 months passed between the first visit and the second one. During the second visit, the police prohibited the family members from asking him for any information about himself. In the three months since then, we have been unable to get any information about him. On August 27, 2012, his eldest brother hired lawyers Li Subin and Li Xiongbing to go meet with Gao Zhisheng, but their request was rejected by the prison authorities.

As is known to all, Gao Zhisheng has all along been a political prisoner of conscience under the strict control of the Chinese Communist authorities. I am very concerned that the torture and the long-term imprisonment pose a serious threat to his life. I appeal to the international community to persist in paying continuous attention to Lawyer Gao Zhisheng as this is the best way to protect him.


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