Alleged enforced disappearance of lawyer Gao Zhisheng

Chinese lawyer Gao Zhisheng

Who we wrote to

Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China.

We wrote the letter jointly with Lawyers for Lawyers, a Dutch foundation that seeks to promote the proper functioning of the rule of law by pursuing freedom and independence of the legal profession.

What's the issue

We are concerned about the alleged enforced disappearance of Chinese lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has acted as a legal representative in cases of religious minorities, freedom of expression, forced evictions, and corruption.

His whereabouts remain unknown since August 2017.

In December 2005, his law firm was ordered to cease operations for one year. In August 2006, he was illegally detained by police and, in December 2006, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment on charges of ‘inciting to subvert the state power’, with a probation period of five years.

During this period it is reported that he has disappeared several times and has been tortured in detention. In April 2010, Gao spoke about the torture he suffered to the Associated Press and was subsequently disappeared again, while visiting his in-laws in Xinjiang.

On 16 December 2011, he was accused of having violated the terms of his probation and he was sent back to prison for three years on the charge of ‘inciting to subvert the state power’, with a one-year deprivation of his political rights. He was prevented from seeing his family and legal representatives while in prison.

In August 2014, he was released but was allegedly disappeared again in August 2017 where he hasn't been seen since.

What we asked for

We have asked the relevant authorities in the People's Republic of China to:

  • without delay identify and disclose the whereabouts of Chinese lawyer Gao Zhisheng and carry out a prompt, effective, and impartial investigation into his disappearance
  • immediately release lawyer Gao Zhisheng to the extent that he is being held by state authorities
  • ending such release, grant Gao Zhisheng access to his legal representatives and family members, as well as comply with international standards on conditions of detention, ensuring his physical and psychological integrity
  • drop any pending charges against Gao Zhisheng unless credible evidence is presented in proceedings that respect fair trial guarantees
  • ensure that all lawyers in the People’s Republic of China can carry out their legitimate professional activities without intimidation, improper interference, or reprisals

We will continue to monitor the situation of Gao Zhisheng, as well as that of other lawyers in the People’s Republic of China.

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