By Gu Qing’er, December 18, 2012
A letter purporting to be from Gao Zhisheng, the well-known Chinese human rights lawyer detained for defending persecuted groups in China, was sent to family members recently, saying that they should not visit him in the remote province of Xinjiang. But the note has raised suspicions, with relatives convinced that Gao didn’t actually write it.
Gao’s family told The Epoch Times that the letter—received on the eve of the 18th National Party Congress in November—was inscribed with two red wax thumbprints. It merely said “hello to each family member,” but maintained they should not visit, making them more worried for his safety. His brothers said they would visit him by the end of the year.
“After receiving this letter, it made us more nervous and doubtful,” Gao’s wife, Geng He, told The Epoch Times. “His elder brother felt uneasy since he had never seen the thumbprints before and said they were very unusual.”
“In the past, we have always contacted each other by telephone and rarely by letter.” His brother has never seen Gao Zhisheng’s handwriting, so he can’t tell whether the letter really is from him, she added.
Gao has been detained several times by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), but last disappeared in early 2009. One of his brothers said he received a document early this year, saying that Gao was detained in Xinjiang.
Gao renounced the CCP in 2005 and, after writing about and defending cases involving practitioners of the persecuted Falun Gong meditation discipline, was continually harassed by Chinese security forces before being detained and severely tortured.
On Dec. 22, 2006, Gao was given a suspended prison sentence of three years for allegedly “inciting subversion of state power.” He and his family were placed under house arrest, before his wife and children fled China in 2009 to reside in the United States.
Gao has been subjected to torture and other human rights abuses while in detention, and wrote an open letter in 2007 exposing some of this misconduct by his captors. Sun Yong, a member of the Chinese Human Rights Protection Group, said Gao is “said to often be abused” because he “understands the nature of the Communist Party, and thus suffers the most suppression.”
Geng He, Gao’s wife, maintains that Chinese Communist authorities are afraid Gao’s family would tell the international community of his situation if they visited him, which is why the letter appeared saying Gao did not want to see them.
She added that Gao Zhiyi, his brother, has continually told the Yulin City Public Security Bureau, located in Shaanxi Province—where Gao is from—that he wanted to see his brother in detention. Specifically, Gao Zhiyi told Chinese authorities he would visit during the 18th National Party Congress period, and “that is why authorities manipulated this letter and sent it to Gao Zhiyi,” preventing him from doing so, Geng He said.
“The authorities have never allowed us to see Gao Zhisheng; we are very anxious about his safety,” Gao Zhiyi told The Epoch Times.
“The [Chinese regime] has said that we can only see him with an approval document issued by the local police station,” he said, adding that the family would still attempt to visit him despite the length and cost of the trip.
Repeated Visitation Refusals
When Bo Xilai was removed as Communist Party head of Chongqing on March 15, Gao’s family got a phone call from the authorities that day, saying they could visit him, provided they did not tell anyone. Gao Zhiyi and his father-in-law were only allowed to visit Gao Zhisheng in the Shaya Prison in Xinjiang for a half-hour, after spending two years apart not knowing whether he was still alive, Geng He told The Epoch Times.
But she said that since March, no one in his family has been able to see her husband. She again turned to authorities in Europe and the United States to place pressure on the Chinese regime and allow visitation rights.
In August, Gao’s family lawyers, Beijing lawyers Li Xiongbing and Li Subin, attempted to meet with him, but were turned away.
The authorities declined visitation, saying Gao Zhisheng was himself a high-level lawyer and did not need legal representation, that the letter sent by his brother Gao Zhiyi did not meet the authorities’ requirements, and that Gao did not actually want to meet with his family or lawyers—a narrative that the recent missive appears designed to support.