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By Gao Zhisheng, published: September 23, 2015
In a sudden move, according to sources, deputy secretary of State Tony Blinken is meeting families of Chinese political prisoners today, September 23rd, ahead of the Obama-Xi Jinping summit on Friday. Lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s wife is among those who are invited to the meeting which purportedly will discuss how human rights issues will be addressed during the summit. Gao Zhisheng was released from prison on August 7, 2014, but a year later he is still under house arrest and denied of proper medical treatment and freedom to travel. Calls for the U. S. to help the Gao family to reunite has gone fruitless. Ms. Geng He cancelled her trip and posted Gao’s message to her on Twitter. China Change offers an unauthorized translation below. – The Editors
When he heard that I was going to visit Washington to meet the Deputy Secretary of State, Gao Zhisheng wrote an urgent letter telling me not to go. It is a stirring letter, so I am publishing it for everyone.”
Dear wife, when I first heard that you were going to meet the Deputy Secretary of State in private on the 23rd, I thought it was very inappropriate. Forgive my direct speech: I strongly oppose this.
Firstly, even if it was an open meeting with the president, it’s not what we need right now—how much less a private meeting with his subordinate. Why go about it so secretly? What is there to be afraid of? Who’s the one afraid? Who doesn’t want to be seen in the light of day holding the meeting?
Secondly, while I don’t harbor any blame for any similar past meetings, at this point, it won’t help. In the future there shouldn’t be similar situations, especially at a time like now, when the Party head is rubbing shoulders and celebrating with American politicians.
Thirdly, Western politicians as a whole have a long history of getting along with evil regimes for their own selfish and greedy ends. During the final 60 years of the Qing Dynasty, Western powers knew how bad and dark the dynastic rule was, but they cooperated with that regime in order to gain special privileges; in 1941 America provided steel, fuel, and other materiel for the Japanese imperialist invaders conducting massacres in China. Since the Clinton era, the American political class has disregarded the basic calls of humanity and muddied itself by getting so close to the sinister Communist Party. When these politicians raise their glasses together, justice, human dignity, and conscience, are all given a price tag. The Party officials who commit crimes against humanity still go about with their heads high, having long forgotten their indelible bloody crimes. The Western politicians who have become their accomplices have forsaken the conscience and sense of honor that humans should have.
The wicked regime that has persecuted the Chinese people for 66 years shall collapse in 2017, a great people will eventually stand up. The era of Western politicians making deals with the despicable dregs of China, for their own profit, will be a thing of the past… Before that happens, you shouldn’t have more contact with those people. China’s change will be realized without them. When that happens, these shortsighted, greedy people will find that more than their reputation is damaged. Your effort to help me, especially your tireless effort in trying to get help from them, is too much for me to bear. But be sure to stay close to ordinary Americans. I love the American people, just as I have always loved American values. It was American people and values that gave you, my wife, and our two children, a new life and new hope.
During this temporary hardship, loving our children and relying on one another, and you taking care of yourself is more important than anything else to me. Please believe that I am acting in the face of this inhuman circumstance on the basis of love and responsibility. In about two years, when the Communist Party is no more, we’ll all as a family reunite in Beijing. I’ve never let you down before.
I love you, and thank you for your unfailing strength to shoulder all the responsibilities!
Gao Zhisheng, September 22, 2015
Gao Zhisheng (高智晟) is a prominent Chinese human rights lawyer. Once praised by the Ministry of Justice in 2001, Gao began taking on sensitive political cases, including those involving corrupt officials, rights activists, and in particular persecuted practitioners of Falun Gong. In 2005 he himself became a target of persecution by Communist Party security forces for his legal work, and over the following decade was detained without due process numerous times and subject to extensive torture. He was released from a three-year prison sentence last August, and is currently under a form of illegal house arrest in the far western region of Xinjiang.
AP Exclusive: Recent interview with Gao Zhisheng, September 23, 2015.
Save Gao Zhisheng, by Yaxue Cao,
Chronology of Gao Zhisheng by Human Rights Watch, updated on July 31, 2014
Dark Night, Dark Hood, and Kidnapping by the Dark Mafia, Gao Zhisheng’s account of his torment in 2007.
Gao Zhisheng, Missing Chinese Lawyer, Described Torture Before Disappearing, AP, January 2011.
Legal Gadfly Bites Hard, and Beijing Slaps Him, by Joseph Kahn, New York Times’ profile in 2005.
On the Eve of Gao Zhisheng’s Release, by Yaxue Cao
Transcending Fear, an extraordinary documentary about Gao Zhisheng, is available on Youtube.
Published: September 12, 2014
Geng He (耿和), wife of Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), held a press conference on September 9, 2014, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., appealing to the U. S. government and the international community to help bring Gao Zhisheng to the U.S. to receive medical treatment and reunite with his family. With her permission, the following is a translation of her statement. – The Editor
Good morning ladies and gentlemen,
My husband Gao Zhisheng is a Chinese lawyer. Throughout his career, he has been dedicated to defending the rights of disadvantaged groups in Chinese society and providing pro bono legal services to them. Standing against the power of the state, he used his legal expertise to educate the general public and to disseminate the concept of justice and human rights. He fought and won justice for victims with his knowledge of the law and his eloquence of expression, establishing a strong reputation and earning the respect of many in China.
While it is difficult to look back on the past eight years, I have had to recall and recount over and over again in front of the media what has happened to him. Fearing for him has been part of my life. For more than five years since my two children and I fled to the United States, I have often been crushed by a sense of despair and hopelessness. I feared that Gao Zhisheng would be subject to brutal torture again, and that the ill-treatment would render him mentally retarded or physically handicapped or both. And no less did I worry that the international attention on Gao would fade…
Now, all of my fears have become a terrible reality. On August 7, Gao Zhisheng was finally released from prison, but the home he returned to has now turned into another prison. Since his release, each morning and each afternoon, public security officers “visit” him in shifts, each lasting two or three hours. As a result, he and family members are unable to live normal lives. A frustrated Gao told the police: “Since your job is to visit me every day and make it impossible for me and my relatives to live in peace, you may as well send me back to prison.”
Presently, I can reach him by telephone. He is learning how to speak again, talking in stops and starts, and his relatives often explain his meaning through the static on the phone.
I have tried everything to learn about his situation, including what happened to him during the 20 months of disappearance prior to his sentence in Shaya Prison (沙雅监狱) in Xinjiang Province. I feel I have no choice but to disclose what I have learned to governments, legislatures, the media, and people around the world who are concerned about Gao Zhisheng, and to ask for your help.
This is how Gao Zhisheng was when he was first released from prison: At 5 feet 10 inches tall, he weighed 137 pounds—as opposed to 175 pounds before he went in. He limped as he walked, his body swinging like a polio patient. His face was without color, pale as a ghost. He spoke unintelligibly and was slow to respond to others. Having talked to his father on the phone, my 11-year-old son assessed that “Dad needs to learn Chinese from me.”
Gao Zhisheng had a total of 28 teeth, 12 at the bottom and 16 at the top, all good, before he went to prison. Now he has only 14 good teeth. He lost 2 upper back molars in jail, and another next to those is loose. He has 11 other loose teeth, including 6 in the lower front and 5 on the upper left, all of them so loose that they could be pulled out by hand. When he lies down, the 12 loose teeth fall on his tongue. When he shakes his head, they jangle in his mouth. Since the nerves of these teeth are exposed, he suffers constant toothaches, covering his cheeks all day to alleviate the pain. He can only eat baby food.
Over the past 5 years, he was locked in a dark prison cell of 7 square meters (75 square feet), the cell so small that he would hit the wall by taking two steps in any direction. It had no windows and no ventilation. He was never let out. He was given one meal a day consisting of a single steamed bun and a bowl of boiled cabbage. To eat the bun, he had to tear it into tiny morsels before placing them in his mouth.
Gao Zhisheng’s health is deeply worrisome: he suffers from serious malnutrition, low blood sugar, and has a small cyst on the gall bladder. Particularly, after 5 years of solitary confinement in a dark cell, he has lost part of his speech. According to my younger sister [who is a physician], he will need 2 to 3 years of traditional Chinese medicine treatment to recuperate, and it will probably take about 1 year for him to regain the ability to speak.
Nevertheless, he still said to us: “While in jail for the last 5 years, I felt guilty towards my family because they suffered just as much, fearing for me.” He said that he longs to reunite with his family and to recover. He wants to receive dental care in the United States. But he also said that, while in prison, police told him: “Don’t even think about going to the United States, particularly if the U. S. government wants you to go!”
Now, please allow me to tell you what Gao Zhisheng went through during the 5 year so-called “probation period” from December 22, 2006, to December 22, 2011, before he was sent to Shaya Prison. Gao was disappeared 6 times during that period, the longest episode lasting 20 months (from April 2010 to December 2011). I learned only recently that, for those 20 months, he was detained in a basement in a military facility.
In Dark Night, Dark Hood, and Kidnapping by the Dark Mafia, Gao describes torture he endured in July 2007, which readers found shocking and harrowing. But he told me that the torture he was subjected to over that 20-month disappearance was worse. For example, in winter the room had no heat, and he would shiver in his summer clothes. He counted numbers from day to night, day after day. As a northerner used to harsh winters, he is now afraid of the cold.
This is state persecution of an individual. I am powerless to counter it. The only thing I can do is continue my plea for media attention. More urgently, I call on the United States government and the international community to speak the voice of justice and provide meaningful help to my husband.
The persecution of Gao Zhisheng is not a result of personal enmity between Chinese rulers and Gao, but because the sinister communist regime feared his righteousness.
His help in individual cases did little to change the entire system, yet in the end he himself was threatened by the authorities for what he did. Starting in 2005, when Gao Zhisheng began to represent persecuted Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, and other persecuted groups, his situation deteriorated fundamentally, and the Chinese authorities began to come down hard on him. The government shut down his law firm and disbarred him from the legal profession. In August 2006 he was illegally kidnapped by Chinese police. On December 22, 2006, he was sentenced to three years in prison with a five-year probation for “inciting subversion of state power.” Then, four days before his probation was due to expire, the Chinese official news agency, Xinhua, reported that “Gao Zhisheng will spend the next three years in jail.” At the end of 2011, Gao was secretly transferred to the remote Shaya Prison in Aksu Prefecture, Xinjiang. During his time there, relatives were only allowed to visit him twice, 30 minutes each time. In fact, the prison notice prescribed only 15 minutes of family visits, and Gao protested it.
Though negligible compared to what Gao Zhisheng has endured, Chinese communist rulers have also caused my children and myself to suffer tremendous mental and psychological trauma, including through our arduous and dangerous escape [in 2009], and our hardships getting established in the United States.
The persecution of Gao Zhisheng, a lawyer renowned both domestically and internationally, is a microcosm of China’s widespread human rights abuses. Therefore I stand here today to make an earnest plea to President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry: I hope you will express publicly your concern for Gao Zhisheng. It would be the most candid and the most direct support for human rights in China. Your voices will give hope and encouragement not only to Gao Zhisheng, whose plight has not ended, but also to those living in China who yearn for freedom and human rights.
Gao Zhisheng himself, as well as our entire family, needs urgent humanitarian attention from all of you, and we need your help to bring him to the United States for dental and health care.
My heartfelt appreciation to all of you. Thank you.
Geng He, Wife of Gao Zhisheng
September 8, 2014
Freed from Prison but Still Not Free, Teng Biao’s op-ed in Washington Post on September 8, 2014
(Translated by Sherry Z., Geng He’s interpreter, with minor editing from China Change.)
China Change, published: September 1, 2014
Since Chinese rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s release from prison on August 7, we have learned that he is in poor health after enduring five years of solitary confinement without sunlight and malnutrition.
On August, 27, Geng He (耿和), Gao Zhisheng’s wife who fled China in 2009 with their two children sent a series of tweets (here, here, here and here) from her home in California, detailing Gao Zhisheng’s dental problems. She said he needs urgent attention which he has not been able to receive in Urumqi where he has been staying with, and has been taken care of by, his in-laws while remaining under surveillance by government minders.
“Gao Zhisheng has seen a dentist. The dentist said, ‘your teeth are in terrible shape. Here [in Urumqi] we don’t have the equipment to take a full mouth [x-ray] photograph because we can’t afford it (cost more than a million RMB). We can only x-ray individual teeth, but without the full-mouth photo, dentists can’t treat your teeth. The dentist recommended that Gao Zhisheng go to Beijing, Xi’an, or Chengdu to seek treatment.”
“Before Gao Zhisheng was imprisoned, all of his 28 teeth were good. I have just confirmed with him about the condition of his teeth now: of the 16 upper teeth, 5 on the left are very loose and cannot be savaged (red), and 2 on the right fell out while in prison (green). One next to the space (green) left by the lost teeth is also very loose and can be pulled out by hand.”
“Of the 12 lower teeth, the 6 front teeth (red) are very loose and unsalvageable that need to be removed.”
“Gao Zhisheng holds his jaw all the time due to an excruciating toothache, which is exacerbated by eating, drinking and even breathing. When he shakes his head, his teeth shake too. Now he is very voracious for all the good food, but the toothache is preventing him from eating it. We have a family dentist in Beijing, but the authorities have barred Gao Zhisheng from going to Beijing, confining him in Xinjiang without treatment.”
“Xinjiang doesn’t have the equipment for a full mouth x-ray and the dentist was afraid to clean his teeth for him for fear of uprooting the loose teeth. The dentist asked for written promise that we will not hold the dentist responsible should his teeth fall out during cleaning. [In Urumqi,] explosions occur often, even in residential areas there have been deafening gas pipe explosions.””
“Receding gums are exposing the root of all five upper molars, and brushing aggravates the condition. I believe, first of all, a competent dentist has to pull these five molars out, and the next step would be to undertake implant reconstruction.”
“Every day police from the Public Security Bureau pay two visits to GaoZhisheng, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, each lasting two to three hours. They kept asking what he does at home. Gao Zhisheng said, read and rest. They demanded to know what he was reading. He said, books available in bookstores.”
“Everyone in my family is tired of this, and is afraid of leaving Gao home by himself (they worry these public security personnel might do something harmful to Gao again). GaoZhisheng said to them, since you spend all day visiting me, making it impossible for me to rest and causing inconvenience to my family in their routine such as going to work and going out to shop for groceries. You may as well put me back to prison.”
“My older sister used to hate night shift because her kids needed her during the night. Now she swaps shift with co-workers so that she can stay home during the day to keep an eye on the “visiting” policemen in and out of her home.”
In earlier tweets, Geng He revealed that Gao Zhisheng limped like a polio patient when he walked out of the prison and was pale “as a ghost.” He could barely communicate in the first days after his release, but thanks to the good care he has been receiving from relatives, he is recovering in speech.
Save Gao Zhisheng, by Yaxue Cao
(Translated by China Change)