Thursday, 29 March 2012

Signs of Life

We are relieved to hear human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng met his relatives last weekend.

It is the first time we've heard anything of him since last December when the government was announced he was returning to prison for three years because he apparently violated his probation.

In January the authorities told brother Gao Zhiyi that Gao, 47, was held at a jail in Shaya County in Xinjiang. But their efforts to go see him were stalled until now.

Gao Zhiyi and his wife Geng He's father in law went to see him; he spoke to Geng for 10 minutes and his brother for 20 minutes.

"He was very pale, like someone who hasn't been in the sunlight for years, but otherwise he seemed healthy," said his wife Geng He by phone from California where she lives with their two children in exile. "After hearing the news from my family, I slept well for the first time in a long while."

However they were unable to ask Gao where he had been for the past two years or his treatment in jail.

Geng asked Gao Zhiyi why he didn't find out more. "He said, 'My main purpose of the trip is to determine whether he is alive or dead. The police will not allow you to ask so many things.'"

They spoke via telephone separated by a glass wall and were closely monitored by police. According to ChinaAid, Gao asked his relatives to deposit 600RMB into his prison account and asked about his family.

While we are glad to hear Gao is alive and "well", but seriously lacking in vitamin D, we are disappointed his relatives weren't give enough time to speak to him and find out how he has been these past two years where no one (except the authorities) knew where he was.

His relatives had to travel all the way to Xinjiang to see him for 30 minutes and then go home again.

Gao broke down when his father in law said, "My health has greatly improved now that I have seen you." His brother cried as well.

This emotional distress is torturous for everyone involved.

And that's exactly how the authorities want those convicted of "inciting subversion of state power" to suffer -- not only themselves, but their loved ones as well.

They are using Gao as an example to deter those bent on pushing for democracy that rebelling against the government means you will pay dearly.

No one said the road to democracy would be easy.

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