Who Speaks for Gao Zhisheng and the 'Desaparecidos' of China?

“America must always stand on the side of human dignity.” – President Barack Obama

I would like to thank the mainstream media for remembering Gao Zhisheng. One should give credit where credit is due, and in this case, it is well-deserved.

On February 4, 2009, Gao Zhisheng was abducted by the Chinese government. He has not been heard from since.

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Mr. Gao is an attorney. According to The Economist, he is “one of China’s ten best lawyers.” He is also a Christian who has represented those persecuted by the Chinese government. His wife writes in the Washington Post that “he fought for those abused by the police, those who had their land stolen by the government and those who were persecuted for their religious beliefs.”

Gao not only defended his fellow Christians, but also members of the Falun Gong. This religious group is virulently hated by the Communist government. The U.N. Refugee Agency quotes a report on China’s persecution of the children of Falun Gong members:

Many children [of Falun Gong practitioners] have been directly targeted and tortured to death or thrown into prisons and labor camps. Hundreds of thousands of children have been forced to slander Falun Gong or, upon refusal, [have been] expelled from school.

Gao wrote an open letter to the U.S. Congress, in which he detailed crimes committed by the Chinese government, including the theft of private property, wanton environmental degradation, corruption of the legal system, and suppression of rights. His longest section dealt with religious persecution, particularly of practitioners of Falun Gong.

One of the instances of torture detailed in the letter is the case of a mother and son tortured to death within earshot of each other. He offered evidence to support the letter’s claims:

1). For each of the over 3,000 confirmed cases of Falun Gong practitioners who were persecuted to death (the number is still growing thanks to our indifference), we have:

a. their full name, date of birth, ID, and addresses

b. detailed accounts of how they were tortured to death

c. documents to prove their deaths

d. their corpses, ashes, and tombs as material evidence

e. testimony from their living families or friends

f. evidence for their arrests in most cases

g. for those whose organs were removed, the stitching on the bodies and the telephone conversation record with involved hospitals, and evidence provided by the transplant doctors involved

h. a large number of photos of the dead bodies

i. The people responsible for the killing are still alive and can be summoned and investigated by a special tribunal.


2). Many Falun Gong practitioners were never heard from after their arrest. Their families can testify.

3). More than 100,000 survivors who can testify about the tortures they suffered, such as electric shock on private parts, tortured with the “tiger bench,” and pricked by sharp bamboo sticks.

4). Tens of thousands of surviving Falun Gong practitioners who had been detained in labor camps

5). Those who are stilled jailed in labor camps

6). Millions who used to be detained in the brainwashing camps

7). Those who are still detained in the brainwashing camps

8). A large but unidentified number of children who were expelled from school and left homeless

9). Tens of millions who lost their jobs and financial sources, who were denied freedom and the right to go abroad

10). People of conscience within the CCP system who can serve as witnesses

This letter only exacerbated the Chinese government’s hatred toward Gao and his family. A year and a half prior to his disappearance–not arrest, as he was never formally arrested — he was kidnapped and brutally tortured for days. His written account of the torture is here.

Gao’s wife and children have fled to the United States to escape a terrifying form of house arrest the Chinese government imposes upon dissidents and their families. Gao’s wife, Geng He, continues to ask the U.S. government for help in learning what has become of her husband. It is feared that he is dead, as the Chinese police say that Gao:

… went missing while out for a walk.

Of course, these are the same people who abducted Gao in the first place, so they are not to be trusted. Geng He writes that she is unsure whether to hope her husband is dead, for if he is alive he is certainly being tortured.

Gao’s case has received a remarkable amount of media attention. President Obama, unfortunately, has remained silent. So it has always been. For every Solzhenitsyn there are a hundred craven informers. For every St. Thomas More there are dozens of graspers for whom power is the only principle.

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But it isn’t too late for the president to stand for Gao Zhisheng. If he meant what he said in the State of the Union address–that “America must always stand on the side of human dignity”–standing for Gao would be a good place to start.

If you would like to learn more about how to help Gao, please go here.