International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that, with the help of two friends, Chinese Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng escaped in August from his home in Shaanxi, where he was under house arrest. For 23 days, he hid in a vacation house in Jiexiu city in neighboring province, until Shaanxi police mobilized a large number of officers to cross the border and recapture him. While his friends were detained, Gao vanished again and now is believed to be under police custody in Beijing.
One of his friends who assisted with the rescue, Mr. Li Fawang, was released on October 26 with bail pending trial. Four days later, he reached out to his reporter friend to recount how they successfully brought Gao out and give details of subsequent development.
Upon learning that Gao sought to escape from his house arrest, Shao Zhongguo snuck him out and the two met with Li Fawang in neighboring province Shanxi. Li had pre-arranged with a local friend to provide accommodations for Gao until they found another safe haven. Their plan went unnoticed until about three weeks later when both Shao and Li were arrested and detained by the police.
Li briefly saw Gao when he was about to be transported back to Shaanxi for detention. The encounter was so brief that Li was unable to utter a word to Gao. Gao’s whereabouts became unknown after they parted ways.
Both Li and Shao suffered mistreatment in detention. They were shackled, rejected daily necessities, beaten, fed leftover food, and Li, who suffers from diabetes, was denied medicine for the first few days and lost his eyesight as a result.
Gao’s wife Geng He expressed her concern on Twitter earlier today, “Waiting, waiting…Finally the 19th Party Congress is over, yet we still have no news of Gao Zhisheng.”
Gao’s lawyers, Zhang Lei and Yan Xin, visited two Ministry of Public Security offices in Shaanxi province to inquire about Gao’s case on November 8. Officials from different offices all responded with, “No, we do not handle his case.”
His disappearance is concerning, especially since his health has declined from the years in captivity as he suffers tooth loss and other health problems. He did not want to risk being captured so he turned down his friends’ offer to bring him to a dentist during the short period when he was free. Now recaptured, the government might permit harsher treatment and hide him indefinitely.
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Though we are glad to know that Mr. Gao enjoyed brief freedom that was taken away from him for more than a decade, we are concerned about his treatment after being recaptured. In most cases, the Chinese government treats human rights advocates and Christians on the same level as terrorists once they are imprisoned, often putting them through torture and solitary confinement. Given Gao’s successful escape, he is subject to retaliation from law enforcement. We hereby urge the Chinese government to stop its unlawful detention of Mr. Gao immediately.”