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Brutal Torture and Disappearance of Renowned Attorney Demands a Clear International Response

World Leaders Must Call for Release of Gao Zhisheng, End to Falun Gong Persecution

NEW YORK – Chinese security forces’ severe torture and disappearance of leading human rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Gao Zhisheng highlights the life-threatening danger facing Falun Gong adherents and those who come to their defense in China and must prompt a strong international response, the Falun Dafa Information Center said Thursday.

“Gao Zhisheng has repeatedly risked his life to stand up against injustice. He has been abducted and tortured largely for defending Falun Gong adherents publicly, exposing the atrocities they have suffered and calling upon the regime's leadership to end its campaign against this large group of ordinary Chinese seeking to practice their faith in peace,” says Falun Dafa Information Center spokesman Erping Zhang.

“His horrific treatment for doing so should be a wake-up call to the international community of the Chinese regime’s disregard for human rights and the rule of law. Gao’s case shows clearly that absent international pressure with teeth, China’s leaders cannot be depended upon to uphold the basic dignity and rights of their own people.”

Gao Zhisheng, a Chinese rights lawyer featured on the front page of the New York Times in 2005 and listed among the top three candidates for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize, relayed the brutal torture he suffered in police custody in 2007 in a statement released on his behalf on Monday and published by the China Aid Association and Human Rights in China. (statement)

Several days before the letter was made public, on Feb. 4, Gao was again abducted by Chinese authorities. His current whereabouts remain unknown and he is at severe risk of torture.

Torture Account

In the statement released Monday, Gao describes the treatment at the hands of Chinese security agents after he was abducted on September 21, 2007 for writing a letter to the U.S. Congress detailing abuses surrounding preparation for the Olympic games.

Gao describes in great detail being stripped naked, thrown to a concrete floor where several officials beat him and shocked him with electric batons all over his body, including on his genitals and in his mouth. On other occasions, Gao was pinned down while torturers pierced his genitals with sharp objects. During the abuse, his torturers repeatedly linked his treatment to that of Falun Gong, whose persecution he is known for publicly condemning:

“The 12 courses [of torture techniques] we're going to give to you were practiced on the Falun Gong,” Gao recounts one torturer named Wang saying. “We can torture you to death without your body being found.”

The torture lasted for 50 days. Gao says he was threatened that if he were to reveal the torture he had suffered, he would be abducted again and tortured in front of his wife and small children.

Gao was eventually moved to a regular prison cell where several officials suggested that he write articles attacking Falun Gong and praising the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and that he could "charge whatever you want," implying the government would pay him large sums of money to do so. Gao refused.

International Appeal

Gao’s letter closes with a few thoughts directed at foreign governments and his fellow citizens: “Finally, I want to say a few words which won’t be liked by some folks. I want to remind those so-called global 'good friends', 'good partners' called by the CCP that the increasing degree of brutality and coldness against the Chinese people by the CCP is the direct result of appeasement by both you and us (our own Chinese people).”

China watchers frequently point to economic and political relationships with the Chinese regime and suggest that taking a strong stance on cases such as Gao’s or Falun Gong may damage the advancement of interests in other areas such as the economy, energy and the war on terror.

Zhang, however, says such views are shortsighted. “Free countries have never really benefited from appeasing nations ruled by tyranny,” says Zhang. “In the end, it always comes back to haunt us, and often in the worst of ways. The best partner for the international community would be a China in which decent, courageous individuals like Gao Zhisheng are honored, not tortured.”

“The decision to detain and torture such a high-profile figure could only originate near the top on the Chinese regime’s hierarchy. The Chinese leadership clearly evaluated the pluses and minuses of doing this to Gao and determined they could take these actions with relative impunity. It is time for the international community to tilt the balance of that cost-benefit analysis with a strong response.”

The Falun Dafa Information Center calls for:

  • The Chinese regime to immediately and unconditionally release Gao Zhisheng.
  • President Barack Obama and other world leaders to make a personal, public appeal to the Chinese authorities to release Gao.
  • The United States and other nations to take an unequivocal and public stance against the persecution of Falun Gong in China, which has further escalated recently. (news)

Additional background on Gao Zhisheng:

Beginning in 2004, Gao, a devout Christian, was the first of China's high-profile human rights attorneys to speak publicly against the persecution of Falun Gong. Gao also authored several open letters to Chinese leaders (letter 1 / letter 2 / letter 3) as well as the U.S. Congress (letter) detailing his own investigation into atrocities against Falun Gong. In 2007, Gao published a book, A China More Just, detailing his life and work defending a gamut of China's vulnerable groups.