Thursday, 7 August 2014

Cautious Freedom

Free at last -- but how much freedom with Gao Zhisheng really have?
We are thrilled to hear activist lawyer Gao Zhisheng was released earlier today after three years in jail in Shaya, in remote northwest China.

His brother went to pick him up and then travel to Urumqi with minders following them. They went to Gao's sister-in-law's home and it was there that the lawyer was able to call his wife in San Francisco and speak to her for the first time in four years.

"I spoke to Gao Zhisheng, I spoke to him," his wife Geng He said, her voice filled with emotion. "I ask him how his health was, and all he was able to say was, 'My teeth are in bad shape,'" she said.

Geng could hear unfamiliar voices in the room, and deduced they were minders. Her sister told her that half a dozen of Gao's teeth were loose and he had to tear his prison servings of steamed buns into tiny pieces in order to eat.

"Can you imagine the kind of ill treatment he was facing in there?" she asked.

His release was a stark change from the two visits from relatives he was allowed in three years, while his wife and two children fled China in 2009 and were accepted as refugees in the US.

What did Gao do to deserve this horrific treatment?

Previously he was a leading human rights lawyer, self-taught and praised by the Chinese government. But then he began defending the rights of Falun Gong members and farmers with land disputes which Beijing frowned upon. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008.

This isn't the first time Gao was jailed. He was convicted of subversion in 2006 and sentenced to three years in prison. Three years later he was released on probation, and then disappeared a few times.

The last time he was released he recounted in graphic detail to the media how he was physically tortured, kept awake, beaten, his genitals prodded and violated. Soon afterwards he was disappeared again... and then it was later revealed he was in this remote prison for violating the terms of his probation, according to Xinhua.

"Among all the rights lawyers, he has endured the most suffering and we are happy that he was able to come out today," said Beijing rights lawyer Li Fangping. "But we feel very pessimistic about the days ahead. In the past, he was always in either illegal detention or being tortured. We are very worried about whether he will be able to regain full freedom."

We worry too about what will happen to Gao. But more importantly what is his mental state after all he has been through? Has he completely given up the fight to preserve his sanity or is he still the fiery advocate? Will Gao be able to see his family again?

There are too many questions and hopefully they will be answered with time.

Nevertheless, the constant stream on Twitter about his release proves Gao has not been forgotten. We hope he is feeling our love and support from around the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment