Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Life is a trial for Chinese lawyer

Gao Zhisheng, once officially honored for his work, grew bolder in taking on officials. The secret police are thought to have him.
By Barbara Demick - May 5, 2009

Reporting from Beijing — For the family of Gao Zhisheng, a maverick lawyer under house arrest for years after confronting the Communist Party head-on, security was so tight that police sometimes sat in the bedroom of their Beijing apartment, insisting the lights remain on all night so they could keep an eye on them.

In order to keep the family incommunicado, authorities forbade telephones or Internet access. When Gao's 15-year-old daughter went to school, her classmates were not allowed to carry cellphones lest she borrow one to make a call.

After more than four years under surveillance, Gao's wife managed to slip out of the apartment in mid-January with their daughter and 5-year-old son. They traveled nearly 2,000 miles by bus, train, motorcycle and on foot to reach Thailand, from where they were allowed to fly to the United States.

The 45-year-old Gao disappeared weeks later and is presumed to be in the custody of Chinese secret police.

"We know nothing. We don't even know if he is alive or dead," said his wife, Geng He, in a tearful telephone interview. In the last month, she has talked to members of Congress, the press and human rights groups about what happened to her family.

Her story speaks to the unbearable pressure Beijing continues to apply on its citizens, even savvy lawyers, who cross an unstated line by taking on taboo causes.


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