Waiting For a Call

July 22, 2011
By Zhang Min, Radio Free Asia
Geng He, the wife of missing Chinese dissident Gao Zhisheng, speaks to the media in Washington, Jan. 18, 2011. Atleft is the picture of her husband. (AFP)

The wife of a top Chinese human rights lawyer is awaiting her husband’s return from she doesn’t know where.

Beijing human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng has defended some of China’s most vulnerable people, including Christians, coal miners and followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement. Convicted of subversion and put on probation for five years, Gao has been “disappeared” and tortured several times. His wife, Geng He, who fled China in early 2009 along with the couple’s two children, spoke to RFA Mandarin service reporter Zhang Min about Gao’s most recent disappearance in April 2010:

“Gao Zhisheng was illegally detained by the Chinese Communist Party on Aug. 15, 2006, and sentenced to three years, which was later extended to five years. He should be set free on Aug. 15 this year. Not only is he not at home, nobody knows where he actually is.”

“His elder brother called up a guy surnamed Sun in Beijing [state security police], and he said, ‘We don’t know. He has got lost. Don’t call me again.’ Now we can’t get through to his brother’s home phone number. Either no one picks up, or there’s a message saying no such number exists. It’s not normal. I told him to discontinue the service … but he said they couldn’t cancel it, because it would be the only way for Gao Zhisheng to get in touch, just in case he tried.”

“We are all just waiting for a call.”

‘Missing person posters’

“The last time I ever had contact with [Gao] was around April 15-16. We were getting ready for our daughter’s birthday party on April 17, and she wanted to talk to her father. She couldn’t find him—couldn’t get through on the phone. And we haven’t been able to since … His brother has put out missing person notices. He wanted me to post them online.”

“I have them right here. I’ll read it to you. ‘Missing Person. Gao Zhisheng. Aged 49. Han Chinese. Height: one meter, eighty centimeters (five feet, nine inches). Native of Beijing. Traveled back to his ancestral home for the grave-sweeping festival, to visit his mother’s grave, in February 2010 … No word has been heard from him since his return to Beijing 10 days later, when he communicated by phone. The family is extremely worried.'”

Calls to the police

“This year I have made a number of calls to section leader Sun in the Beijing public security bureau. He just says [Gao] is missing. I also went to the complaints division of the Beijing public security bureau on Sept. 13 last year to ask them. They said they didn’t know.”

“I am just an ordinary citizen. There’s nothing else I can do. If anyone knows what has happened to him, could they please contact our family. We would be so very grateful. The contact person is Gao Zhiyi, and his cell phone number is 15191985726. I got a letter on June 6. It was from an uncle of his, who put it straight in my letterbox.”

Threats to sister

“His sister didn’t dare go out looking for him because she had been warned off doing that by the authorities. They told her, ‘You can’t leave here. If you do, you will affect the careers of your two [grown] children.’ She depends on her two daughters because her husband died a long time ago. She hasn’t had any news of her brother, and this is causing a lot of damage to her mental health.”

“The day when Gao Zhisheng should finish serving his sentence is approaching. It should be the day when he finally gets to go home. The whole family is waiting for this day. Anyone who is concerned about or who cares about Gao Zhisheng is focused on this day.”

“On the missing person poster for Gao, his brother Gao Zhiyi has written that the entire family is waiting. There is nothing else we can do. There is nothing but the pain of searching. That’s the only thing that ordinary people can do.”

Offerings of incense

“My father is nearly 80 years old. Our [Chinese] home is near Hongguang Mountain. Every morning my father gets up early and goes to Hongguang Mountain [in Xinjiang] to burn incense as an offering for Gao Zhisheng’s safe return. Otherwise, he can’t get on with his day in peace … Sometimes we can get through to the Xinjiang number, sometimes not. My mother is a little confused these days, and I don’t call often.”

“Right now, the kids and I are doing okay. We take it one day at a time. We hope that this day will come soon. The children are always asking me about it. On Father’s Day, my son said, ‘Mommy, today is Father’s Day. I want to call Daddy.’ It was right around the time when there was flooding in Beijing. I told him, ‘Look at all the flooding in Beijing. You won’t be able to get through to him.’ ‘OK,’ he said. ‘So can I talk to him on my birthday, then?’ My son’s birthday is on Aug. 27. I said, ‘OK. That should be fine.’ His studies are going all right now. He has got used to school.”

Detained and tortured

“In the past six years, Gao Zhisheng has disappeared no less than six times, and every time he has been tortured. In China, such a good man, such a good lawyer, a man that society needs so badly, receives nothing but oppression and persecution.”

“Even if the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t need him, or the country doesn’t need him, his family needs him, and my children need him. I hope they will allow us to be reunited, and allow our children to grow up with a father. I hope the whole family will be reunited.”

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.