Urgent Action – Gao Zhisheng (China)

02 February 2009

UA 24/09 – Arbitrary detention/Fear of torture and other ill-treatment (PDF)

CHINA – Gao Zhisheng (m), aged 48

Beijing-based human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has been under house arrest since November 2007, was taken into custody on or shortly after 19 January. He is being held incommunicado at an unknown location. In the light of the harsh treatment he received earlier, he is considered to be at high risk of torture and other ill-treatment. While under house arrest, he was often humiliated by his guards: this included being forced to eat food thrown on the ground.

Gao Zhisheng is one of the best-known human rights lawyers in China, and ran his own law firm until 2005, when the authorities revoked his lawyer’s license and suspended the operations of the firm. He has represented human rights defenders and Falun Gong practitioners, and worked on death penalty cases. The Ministry of Justice named him “one of the nation’s top 10 lawyers” in 2001 for work he had done voluntarily and without payment as a public service.

In 2005, Gao Zhisheng wrote several open letters addressed to President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao urging them to end persecution of religious practitioners and pro-democracy activists. In February 2006, he organized a hunger strike campaign to draw further attention to persecution of peaceful activists in China. For this, he was convicted of “inciting subversion” in December 2006. Unusually, his three-year-sentence was suspended for five years. He was allowed to return home, but he and his family have been under surveillance ever since.

Gao Zhisheng later told acquaintances that he had been treated harshly while he was in custody in 2006. He said he was handcuffed and forced to sit in an iron chair or cross legged for longer than four days at a time, and had bright lights shone in his eyes.

Gao Zhisheng was detained again on 22 September 2007 and taken away from his home, after he issued an open letter to the US Congress drawing attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in China. He was held incommunicado for the next six weeks. He later said that on the day he was detained, a group of police in plain clothes came into his home, stripped him and beat him unconscious. During this period in detention, he was beaten, given repeated electric shocks to his genitals and had lit cigarettes held close to his eyes for several hours. This left him partially blind for days afterwards. Upon release, his acquaintances described him as “a broken man,” both physically and spiritually.

Human rights activists in China who attempt to report on human rights violations, challenge policies which the authorities find politically sensitive, or try to rally others to their cause, face serious risk of abuse. Many are jailed as prisoners of conscience after politically motivated trials, while growing numbers are being held under house arrest with the police conducting intrusive surveillance and standing guard outside. Family members of human rights activists, including children, are increasingly targeted by the authorities, for abuses including long-term house arrest.

Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:

  • calling on the authorities to release Gao Zhisheng immediately and unconditionally;
  • if he remains in custody, calling on the authorities to reveal where he is and the formal charges against him;
  • urging the authorities to guarantee that he will not be tortured or otherwise ill-treated while he remains in custody;
  • urging them to ensure Gao Zhisheng has access to his lawyers, and any medical treatment he may require;
  • calling on the authorities to take effective measures to ensure that all human rights defenders can carry out their peaceful activities without fear of arbitrary detention, imprisonment, hindrance or intimidation, in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.


Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China
Wen Jiabao Guojia Zongli
The State Council General Office
2 Fuyoujie
Beijingshi 100017
Fax: 011 86 10 65961109 (c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China
Meng Jianzhu Buzhang
14 Dongchang’anjie
Beijingshi 100741
Fax: 011 86 10 63099216 (it may be difficult to get through, please keep trying)
Salutation: Your Excellency

Director of the Beijing Public Security Bureau
Ma Zhenchuan Juzhang
Beijingshi Gong’anju
9 Qianmen Dongdajie
Beijingshi 100740
Fax: 011 86 10 85222320
Email: wbjc@sohu.com
Salutation: Dear Director


Ambassador Wen Zhong Zhou
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: 1 202 328-2582
Email: currently unavailable

Check with the AIUSA Urgent Action office if sending appeals after 16 March 2009.

Within the United States:
$0.42 – Letters and Cards (up to 1 oz.)
To China:
$0.94 – Airmail Letters and Cards (up to 1 oz.)

Amnesty International is a worldwide grassroots movement that promotes and defends human rights.

This Urgent Action may be reposted if kept intact, including contact information and stop action date (if applicable). Thank you for your help with this appeal.

Urgent Action Network
Amnesty International USA
600 Pennsylvania Ave SE 5th fl
Washington DC 20003
Email: uan@aiusa.org
Phone: 202.544.0200
Fax: 202.675.8566

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