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Leading Human Rights Attorney Is Missing
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The Chinese government claims that prominent human rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Gao Zhisheng “went missing”last year while in their custody. Gao was taken into custody by security forces last February. In 2001 Gao was named one of China’s top 10 lawyers but later ran afoul of the government for providing legal services to victims of government abuses. He represented several controversial clients in China including victims of forced eviction notices, members of underground Christian churches and farmers whose land had been appropriated by the government. He also orchestrated a hunger strike by adherents of Falun Gong, an illegal religious movement in China. As a result he faced increasingly severe retaliation from government officials.

In 2006 Gao was found guilty of “inciting subversion” and sentenced to three years in prison. His law firm was shut down and he lost his law license. He continued to actively advocate for victims of government human rights violations and was periodically imprisoned by the authorities for these activities. Gao later wrote that while in detention he was tortured until he agreed to confess to sedition charges.

Last week in an interview Gao’s brother, Gao Zhiyi, stated that he traveled from his home in Shaanxi Province in September, several months after Gao was most recently detained with no word from him. Gao Zhiyi spoke with an officer who arrested his brother. The officer told him that Gao Zhisheng “lost his way and went missing”. There has been no further word on his whereabouts. Family, colleagues and supporters from around the world fear for his safety.

  
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Susan Stevenson, spokeswoman for the United States Embassy in Beijing issued the following statement, “Mr. Gao has courageously taken on cases involving corruption, illegal property seizure and religious persecution…We believe such activities support China’s efforts to institute the rule of law and should be encouraged, not punished.”

 

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