News / Asia

China Releases Prominent Dissident Lawyer

FILE - Gao Zhisheng, a Chinese human rights lawyer.
FILE - Gao Zhisheng, a Chinese human rights lawyer.
Natalie Liu

Well known Chinese lawyer and activist Gao Zhisheng has been released from prison after three years, but appears to be under close supervision by authorities.

Jared Genser, Gao Zhisheng’s lawyer, said in an interview with VOA’s Mandarin service that he wants to see if Gao can come to the United States and reunite with his wife, son, and daughter on the U.S. west coast.

"His family is desperate to be reunited with him, and he has suffered so much for so many years, and he's really such a champion for so many dissidents in China who have suffered under oppression, and standing up in solidarity for them as a human rights lawyer," he said.

Gao, who has defended Christians and miners during his career as a lawyer, was given a three-year suspended sentence for subversion in 2006. After disappearing into police custody for most of 2009, he was sent to prison in 2011 for allegedly violating the terms of his probation.

One of his brothers said in an interview with VOA's Mandarin service that Gao is currently at his father-in-law's home in Urumqi, the capital of the far western region of Xinjiang.

His wife, Geng He, said when she talked to her husband on the telephone Thursday, it sounded as if there were "minders" in the room with him. She added that he was having problems with his teeth, although otherwise he reported being in good shape.

Genser says Gao's family has been protected by the U.S. government, and he would like the same thing for Gao. He said he has contacted members of Congress and related government departments about Gao’s case.
Yang Jianli, the founder of a U.S.-based group called Civil Force, which focuses on Chinese human rights, told VOA there are a large number of issues that have not been resolved in Gao’s case. He added that Gao has suffered more serious torture than many other Chinese dissidents.

"It appears that he has not been sentenced for a felony, with only three years of prison. But he got another five years of probation, which means he has lost freedom for eight years total, and during that time, he has disappeared twice," he said. "Nobody knows where he was. Moreover, he wrote letters that described the torture during his sentence.”

Yang said the torture Gao suffered in jail cannot be imagined by other people. He said even though he himself has been in jail, he cannot picture what Gao has been through.  Yang said China has been under pressure to release Gao, but he believes officials may use covert ways to keep Gao under control.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.

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