- Gao Zhisheng
Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), age 41, is a Chinese army veteran and self-taught lawyer who was disbarred, detained, and physically abused by the Chinese authorities after taking on human rights cases. These included defending fellow activists, and religious minorities like
Falun Gongand underground Christians. In 2006, he authored a memoir on his life and work, the English translation of which, "A China More Just", was subsequently published in 2007. [http://www.broadpressusa.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=35&Itemid=10 “Memoir of Top Chinese Lawyer Published as His Whereabouts Unknown”] Broad Press USA (2007-10-25) Retrieved on 2008-10-08. ] He was a candidate for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize. [ “Nobel Peace Prize May Go to Chinese Activist, Angering Beijing”, Bloomberg.com (2008-10-06). Retrieved on 2008-10-06.]
Mr. Gao was born and raised in poverty in a cave dwelling in Shaanxi Province with six siblings. He briefly worked in a coal mine and then joined the People's Liberation Army, was stationed at a base in Kashgar, in Xinjiang region, and became a member of the Chinese Communist Party. Gao Zhisheng, ‘’A China More Just’’. Broad Press (2007)]
After being discharged, he took a self-taught course on the law and passed the bar exam in 1995. Taking one third of his cases
pro-bono, he became known after winning a $100,000 medical malpractice suit in 1999. During his time in Xinjiang, he won a lawsuit for an entrepreneur whose business local officials reclaimed after he had revived it following privatization. Despite winning the case, Gao was forced to leave Xinjiang because harassment by local officials made his legal practice impossible. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/13/international/asia/13lawyer.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ei=5094&en=2603f28ce2c9c2c4&hp&ex=1134536400&partner=homepage “Legal Gadfly Bites Hard, and Beijing Slaps Him”] . The New York Times. December 15, 2005. Retrieved Oct 8, 2008.] In 2000, he moved to Beijingand established the Shengzhi Law Office with a half dozen other lawyers.
In 2001, he was voted as one of the 10 Best Lawyers in China, because of his professionalism and integrity, often helping poor people without fees to sue local Chinese government branches and officials.
In December 2005, he quit the
Chinese Communist Party. [Gao, Zhisheng (Dec. 14, 2005) "Celebrated Chinese Lawyer Quits Chinese Communist Party", The Epoch Times, retrieved Mar. 7, 2008] “This [Chinese Communist] Party has employed the most savage, most immoral, and most illegal means to torture our mothers, torture our wives, torture our children, and torture our brothers and sisters…Today, I, Gao Zhisheng… formally withdraw from this inhumane, unjust, and evil Party. This is the proudest day of my life.”
hengzhi law office cases
* A land dispute case against Taishi village officials
* A class-action law suit against local authorities over coercion in implementation of China’s family planning policies
* Won a case for six factory workers from Guangdon province who had been detained for protesting exploitation by their employer. [ [http://www.china-labour.org.hk/en/node/17426 “The Stella Shoe Workers’ Protest”] . China Labor Bulletin, retrieved October 8, 2008]
* Appealed the sentence of Zheng Yichun, a journalist and former professor who was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in September for his on-line writings
* Provided legal help for Falun Gong practitioners, including Huang Wei, who was illegally sentenced to three years of re-education through labor in
Shijiazhuang. [ Gao Zhisheng, excerpt from A China More Just, available online at: http://www.faluninfo.net/article/510/ Retrieved October 8, 2008.]
* Provided legal help for an illegal Chinese house church pastor Cai Zhuohua, who was sentenced to three years in prison for printing and distributing copies of the
Bible. Amnesty International, [http://www.amnesty.ca/take_action/actions/china_gao_zhisheng.php “China: Human Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng Survives Attempt on His Life.”] Retrieved October 8, 2008.]
Targeted and harassed by Chinese authorities
Gao was director, founder, and star litigator of the Beijing-based Shengzhi Law Office. In 2001, he was recognised by China’s Ministry of Justice as "one of the country’s 10 best lawyers". Over the following years, he defended a wide range of clients who had been victims of injustice. Gao’s committed involvement with such cases, he says, is strongly bound with the emphasis of his Christian identity on morality and compassion. [Finney, Richard and Ding Xiao (Sept. 4, 2007) "China's Urban Christians an Unknown Quantity For Beijing", Radio Free Asia, retrieved Oct. 7, 2007]
In 2004, he defended a Falun Gong practitioner who had been illegally persecuted and sentenced without trial to a labor camp. Upon finding that judges refused to hear the case because of “orders from above,” he resorted to writing a letter to the
National People’s Congress. [ Gao Zhisheng, [http://en.epochtimes.com/news/6-3-25/39696.html “An Open Letter to China’s National Peoples’ Congress”] The Epoch Times, December 31, 2004. Retrieved October 8, 2008] Gao and his family's ordeal started, he says, when his conscience led him to start investigating the persecution of Falun Gong, and subsequently write three open letters to top Chinese officials.
On October 18, 2005, Gao wrote an open letter to
Hu Jintaoand Wen Jiabaourging them to end the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, detailing a wide range of abuses they suffer in custody, including torture, sexual torture, beatings, and executions. [ Gao Zhisheng, [http://www.theepochtimes.com/news/5-10-24/33667.html “Stop Persecuting Believers of Freedom and Mend Your Ties with the Chinese People,”] The Epoch Times Retrieved October 8, 2008 ] His criticism of China’s human rights situation was remarkable because he lived openly in Beijing, where he was vulnerable for retribution.
Within days of sending the letter and his family were put under 24-hour police surveillance. In early November, his law firm was shut down and soon after his license to practice law suspended.
Amnesty Internationalsays "The closure comes shortly after the firm’s director sent an open letter to the Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao urging them to end the “barbaric” persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China. It is believed that the closure of the firm is closely linked with this letter. [...] Amnesty International is concerned that this suspension will severely undercut the work of human rights activists in the country."
Gao gave an interview from Dagens Nyheter on 27 February 2006 about his experience with Chinese security forces. At least eight police officers shadowed him and his family, including following his teenage daughter to school.
Later in November, Gao traveled to northeast China with professor of journalism Jiao Guobiao, and spent two weeks interviewing Falun Gong practitioners, investigating the torture they had suffered. Upon his return, he published another open letter to China’s top leaders, detailing what he had found.
“In this letter, I will not circumvent any of the real problems I saw, even if this means I may be arrested as soon as this is published,” he wrote. “With a trembling heart and a trembling pen, I am now writing down the tragic experiences of those who have been persecuted in the last six years [since the regime began persecuting Falun Gong practitioners] … Almost all who have been persecuted, be they male or female, were stripped naked before being tortured…” [ Gao Zhisheng, A China More Just, an online version of the letter is available at: http://cipfg.org/en/index.php?news=290 Retrieved Oct 8, 2008]
On January 17, 2006, according to Amnesty International, Mr. Gao narrowly escaped an alleged assassination attempt, in the form of a traffic accident ordered by authorities. This came in the wake of the release of Gao's research reports on the persecution of Falun Gong in mainland China, his subsequent resignation of CCP membership, and a meeting with Dr. Manfred Nowak, the
UN Special Rapporteuron Torture.
On February 4, 2006, Gao, together with
Hu Jiaand other activists, launched a “Relay Hunger Strike for Human Rights,” whereby different activists and citizens fasted for 24 hours in rotation. The hunger strikewas joined by people in 29 provinces, as well as overseas, though several participants were arrested for joining. [ Amnesty International, [http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA17/010/2006/en/dom-ASA170102006en.html “China: Amnesty International fears for missing hunger strike activists,”] 21 February 2006: Retrieved Oct 8, 2008]
On August 15, 2006, after numerous death threats and continued harassment, while visiting his sister's family, Mr. Gao was abducted by the Chinese secret police without any legal proceedings.
On September 21, 2006, he was "officially" arrested. On October 13, his family-appointed lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said that Mr. Gao was suspected of "inciting subversion." ["China lawyer held for incitement", BBC News (2006-10-13). Retrieved on 2006-10-13.]
On December 22, 2006, Mr. Gao was convicted of "subversion." He was sentenced to three years in prison, which was suspended, and placed on probation for five years. The sentence also deprives him of his political rights - the freedom to publish or speak out against the government - for one year.
On June 2, 2007, Gao was beaten by a national security officer after he complained about officers assaulting his wife.
On June 24, 2007, Gao was kidnapped by the Chinese government in order to prevent him from attending an award ceremony in the United States. The American Board of Trial Advocates selected Gao to receive the prestigious Courageous Advocacy Award; they wished to present the award to Gao personally in
Santa Barbara, California on June 30, 2007.
In the fall of 2007, Gao’s memoir "A China More Just" was published in English in the United States. [ Broad Press USA, [http://www.broadpressusa.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=33&Itemid=1 A China More Just] , Retrieved Oct 8, 2008.]
On September 22, 2007, after writing open letters to Vice-President of the
European Parliament, Edward McMillan-Scott, with whom he maintained contact, and the to US Congress calling for a boycott of the Olympics, [ Gao Zhisheng, [http://www.david-kilgour.com/2007/Sep_23_2007_03.htm “Open Letter to the United States Congress,”] Retrieved Oct 8, 2008] Gao was secretly taken away once again by Chinese police. In August 2008 reports surfaced that he had been tortured for close to two months in the same way that Falun Gong practitioners are tortured, where authorities attempted to force him to denounce Falun Gong, that had attempted to commit suicide, and that had been removed from Beijing during the Olympic games.
Human rights in the People's Republic of China
Law of the People's Republic of China
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Persecution of Falun Gong
* [http://en.epochtimes.com/211,107,,1.html The Epoch Times International]
* [http://thereport.amnesty.org/eng/regions/asia-pacific/china Amnesty International 2008 Report] states that "Gao Zhisheng" was tortured in the governments custody.
* [http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/13/international/asia/13lawyer.html?hp&ex=1134536400&en=2603f28ce2c9c2c4&ei=5094&partner=homepage New York Times]
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