China: Incommunicado detention of Mr. Gao Zhisheng
December 20, 2011
Mr. Wen Jiabao,
Prime Minister of the People's Republic of China,
The State Council General Office,
2 Fuyoujie, Xichengqu, Beijingshi 100017,
People's Republic of China,
Fax: +86 10 65961109
Re: China: Incommunicado detention of Mr. Gao Zhisheng
Dear Prime Minister,
I have received new information and request your urgent intervention on the following situation in the People's Republic of China.
I have been informed by reliable sources about the incommunicado detention of Mr. Gao Zhisheng, Director of the Beijing-based Shengzhi Law Office and a high-profile human rights defender in China, whose whereabouts have remained unknown since April 2010.
According to the information received, on December 16, 2011, a brief report by the State-run Xinhua News Agency stated that Mr. Gao Zhisheng had been “sent back to jail” by a Chinese court, six days before his five-year probation was due to expire .
The whereabouts of Mr. Gao Zhisheng remain unknown, since the media report did not include any information about the jail to which he was sent. His health condition also remains unknown.
I strongly denounce the incommunicado detention of Mr. Gao Zhisheng, which merely aims at sanctioning his human rights activities, and fears for his health condition. Accordingly, I call for his immediate and unconditional release.
Mr. Gao Zhisheng, who has been under constant police surveillance, along with his family, since receiving a suspended sentence for “inciting subversion” in 2006, was last heard on April 20, 2010. He had only reappeared on March 28, 2010 following a 14-month detention during which he had been subjected torture. The authorities subsequently denied that Mr. Gao was in custody and the police refused to register him as missing.
As a criminal defence lawyer, Mr. Gao has been involved in sensitive cases relative to human rights violations, such as torture of members of the Falun Gong and Christian house church leaders, as well as cases of arbitrary detention of petitioners seeking official accountability for acts of corruption and negligence.
Arrested without a warrant on August 15, 2006, Mr. Gao was sentenced on December 22, 2006 for “inciting the subversion of State power” to three year's imprisonment, commuted into five years parole and to the privation of his political rights during one year. Following this sentencing, Mr. Gao was released and placed under house arrest.
On September 13, 2007, Mr. Gao wrote an open letter calling upon US Congressmen to express their concern about China's human rights' situation in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympic Games. On September 16, 2007, a group of police from the Security Unit of the Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) searched his flat and declared that a “supervision and modification” committee was to be formed in order to closely monitor his activities by requiring that some officials live in his flat for an undefined period. On September 22, 2007, Mr. Gao Zhisheng was driven away from his home by ten plainclothes State security protection officers. Early November 2007, Mr. Gao was brought back to his flat, in Beijing. He would have been beaten and subjected to ill-treatments while in detention.
I urge you to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Gao Zhisheng and disclose the whereabouts of Mr. Gao Zhisheng, and ensure his immediate release since his detention is arbitrary as it merely aims at sanctioning his human rights activities.
I also urge you to put an end to the harassment – including at the judicial level – against Mr. Gao Zhisheng as well as against all human rights defenders in the People's Republic of China;
I urge you Please conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.
I also urge you to ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the People's Republic of China.
I look forward to your immediate and proper response to this case.
William Nicholas Gomes