Gao Zhisheng

Name: Gao Zhisheng

Age: 56

Country/Area of Origin: China

Background: Gao Zhisheng is one of the most widely respected human rights lawyers in China, notably for his work defending religious minorities and victims of state persecution, highlighting the torture of Falun Gong practitioners, and defending political activists and critics of the Chinese Communist Party.

Reason for Arrest:

In the summer of 2006, Gao Zhisheng was arbitrarily detained and disappeared, and in December of the same year, he was charged with ‘inciting to undermine the state’. Gao experienced torture and arbitrary detention for six weeks, and in November 2007 he was officially placed under house arrest, during which he was revoked access to his bank account, denied from family visits, and his family also reported being monitored and pestered by authorities.

Gao disappeared again in April 2010, and no news was released regarding his status and whereabouts until December 2011 when it was announced that he was re-arrested with a three-year prison sentence for allegedly violating the terms of his probation. After his release from prison in August 2014, Gao still languished under house arrest for three years until he escaped on 13 April 2017; he lived without restraint for just three weeks before once again vanishing into police custody without formal charges.

Latest Updates:

  • 8 December 2021: Gao Zhisheng won the Lin Zhao Freedom Award for his work promoting rule of law and freedom in China’s civil society. Gao’s wife Geng He accepted the award on her husband’s behalf, stating that “It has been 1677 days since Gao Zhisheng was forcefully disappeared, his life and death are unknown, nor do we have any ideas on his whereabouts.”
  • August 2021: Gao’s wife, Geng He, publicly called for sanctions against former director of Shaanxi’s provincial police department, Hu Minglang, and current director Xu Datong, as well as secretary of Shaanxi’s local political and legal affairs committee, Zhuang Changxing:
    • “That includes freezing their assets and expelling any of their immediate family members living overseas. I also want sanctions on the current and former ministers for public security for failing to stop the Shaanxi provincial police department’s misbehaviour.
    • “We are still married, and I am still waiting for him staying steadfast, because he is a really good person. Someone who does good for society. The world needs someone like him. I didn’t find out about a lot of his life until I went overseas. I really admire him. I feel as if we are comrades-in-arms now.
    • “I want to stay cheerful, because I don’t have time fo rthis. I want to work, I want to find my husband, and I want our child[ren] to be reunited with my husband. I still feel guilty [because] kids need a father.
    • “I haven’t read the book he published. Sometimes my daughter tells me about it. I can’t bear to read it. I don’t want those scenes in my mind. I know he writes about being tortured, and I can’t bear that.”
  • In April 2021, prior to confirmation that Gao Zhisheng is still alive, Gao’s wife Geng He published a statement that she believed her husband to be dead as “otherwise, he would definitely have found a way to contact us. “Gao Zhisheng suffered because he loved China too much. It was his glory to be buried in our motherland. From this day onwards, I will treat the CCP’s Consulate, the closest to my home, as his cemetery. I will be bringing our children here to pay our respects from this day forward, at the start and middle of every month, and on the Qing Ming [grave-tending] Festival, until the day I die.”
  • In January 2021, it was reported by Gao’s wife, Geng He, that Gao Zhisheng’s sister had commit suicide by jumping into a river months earlier in May 2020. Geng explained that Gao’s sister had suffered from insomnia and depression ever since authorities raided their family home in 2006; her condition only worsened once Gao was re-arrested in 2017. “[After that], she became depressed and unwell, and couldn’t sleep at night. She attempted suicide by jumping into a river … the family said the completed suicide was her third attempt at suicide by jumping into a river. The first two times, someone rescued her.” Jubilee Campaign offers our sincerest condolences to the family of Gao Zhisheng and his sister, and we call for an immediate end to China’s practice of arbitrarily detaining and torturing human rights defenders and lawyers.
  • April 2020 marked the three year anniversary of Gao’s most recent arbitrary detention. His wife, Geng He, reported that she has no knowledge of his whereabouts, and Pastor Liu Yi, a supporter of the couple, revealed that Gao is suffering from poor physical conditions due to torture.