Letter on the alleged enforced disappearance of Gao Zhisheng
In a joint letter Lawyers for Lawyers and The Law Society of England and Wales express their concern about the alleged enforced disappearance of lawyer Gao Zhisheng. Gao Zhisheng has taken on cases concerning religious minorities, freedom of expression, forced evictions, and corruption. Since 2017, Gao Zhisheng’s whereabouts are unknown.
Gao Zhisheng was first served a prison sentence from 2006 to 2009 for ‘inciting to subvert state power’, during which he was disappeared multiple times. In 2009 he was released and spoke about the torture he had suffered during his detention and was subsequently disappeared again in 2010. In 2011, Mr. Gao was accused of having violated the terms of his probation and was sent back to prison. In 2014, he was released, but only three years later, in 2017, Mr. Gao was allegedly disappeared again. To date, his whereabouts remain unknown.
In 2020, the Chinese authorities stated that public security authorities have ‘not carried out any coercive measures against him’ since Mr. Gao’s release in 2014. Lawyers for Lawyers and The Law Society of England and Wales note with concern that it is unclear from this response whether Mr. Gao’s case remains open and what progress the Chinese authorities are making to identify his whereabouts and ensure his physical and psychological integrity.
Lawyers for Lawyers and The Law Society of England and Wales further note that they regard it as unlikely that Mr. Gao disappeared on his own accord and that the Chinese authorities have not taken further coercive measures against Mr. Gao since 2014. According to our information, Mr. Gao has not been in contact with any of his family members or his legal representatives since his most recent disappearance.
In the letter, the Chinese authorities are urged to identify and disclose the whereabouts of Gao Zhisheng and immediately release him to the extent that he is being held by state authorities. Insofar as Mr. Gao is still being held, Lawyers for Lawyers and The Law Society of England and Wales urge the authorities to grant Mr. Gao access to his legal representatives and respect fair trial guarantees.
We will continue to monitor the situation of Gao Zhisheng, as well as that of other lawyers in China.
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