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.