China: Christian lawyer Gao disappears again

Gao Zhisheng

Gao Zhisheng

Concerns are growing for the safety of the Chinese Christian lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who  has not been seen since April.

“He is definitely in the hands of Chinese security forces,” said Bob Fu, president of the US-based rights organization ChinaAid.

Gao, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, traveled to Xinjiang province at the end of April to visit relatives. He left to board a flight back to Beijing and has not been seen since. It is the second time he has disappeared in a little over a year.

"The government clearly has no desire to release him or allow him to rejoin his wife and two children, who have fled to the United States", ChinaAid said in a statement.

Gao has been regularly arrested, imprisoned, beaten and tortured since 2005 because of his human rights work, including defending Christians and the banned Falun Gong group, another rights group, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said.

CSW was “deeply concerned” about Gao’s fate, Tina Lambert, the organization’s advocacy director said.

Gao disappeared in 2009 and was not seen for 400 days until he reappeared in early April at Wutai mountain, a Buddhist retreat center in Shanxi province.

He refused to talk about his disappearance or say whether he had been held or mistreated by the authorities. Friends were quoted then as saying he seemed subdued and unable to speak freely.

His reappearance followed intense international pressure on the Chinese authorities. But he was not free for long.

“His brief reappearance to give interviews to the Western press would appear to have been orchestrated to appease international demands for information about his case,” Lambert said.

Pressure must be kept on the Chinese government, she said, to obtain information and ensure Gao’s swift release.

“His family … miss him terribly and have called for the Chinese to allow him to join them in the US.”

Source: UCAN/CSW

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