The daughter of a Christian human rights lawyer who has been missing in China since August of last year pled with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to use her current trip to China to help her locate her father.
In a letter published to ChinaAid President Bob Fu’s Facebook page, Grace Geng, the daughter of human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, described to Merkel how her father has suffered repeated kidnappings, torture, and imprisonment for his legal defense of Christians and practitioners of Falun Gong, a peaceful spiritual practice encouraging “truth, compassion, and tolerance.” Both faiths have been repeatedly targeted as threats to the government, even though most of their devotees live peacefully and abide by the law.
The government started targeting Gao in 2005 when they revoked his lawyer’s license and ordered him to close his practice. In December 2006, authorities convicted him of “inciting subversion of state power” and handed him a three-year prison term with a five-year probation. For unknown reasons, he was released soon afterward.
In 2007, Gao was arbitrarily held in police custody for 50 days. Afterward, he published an article titled “Dark Night, Dark Hood, and Kidnapping by Dark Mafia,” describing the various tortures he underwent.
Due to the immense threat to their family, Gao’s wife and children fled to the United States in January 2009, but Gao remained in China. Less than a month later, police seized him in his home, and he didn’t resurface until March 27, 2010, when he was allowed a brief stint out of prison. He spoke to family and friends and shared his story with international reporters. On his way home from his in-law’s apartment in Xinjiang in mid-April, officials kidnapped him again, and no one knew his whereabouts until Chinese state mouthpiece Xinhua News Agency reported on Dec. 26, 2011, that the had supposedly violated the terms of his parole and would serve a three-year prison term in Xinjiang. After spending three excruciating years behind bars, Gao was released but subjected to strict surveillance in his home in Shaanxi province, where he had difficulty eating due to the condition of his teeth after the harsh period in prison. He was not allowed to see a dentist.
While under house arrest, he secretly penned a book, which ChinaAid helped out of the country and secured a publishing deal with the American Bar Association and the Carolina Academic Press.
In mid-August, two sympathizers, Li Fawang and Shao Zhongguo, helped Gao escape his minders and hid him at a vacation spot in the neighboring Shanxi province. For just more than three weeks, they successfully evaded detection until police officers from Shaanxi organized a large number of officers to cross the border to find him. Once in police custody, Gao vanished, and both Li and Shao were criminally detained.
Weeks later, Beijing officials claimed they had Gao in the custody of secret agents within the city, but no one has seen him, and ChinaAid has been unable to verify their claims.
Geng’s letter can be read in full below.
Dear Chancellor Merkel,
My name is Grace Geng. I am the daughter of Gao Zhisheng, the missing Chinese human rights attorney. My father has been missing in China for 284 days now. I learned that you are about to visit China. I am urgently asking you to help find my father, who has been forcefully disappeared in China.
My father is concerned about the rights of the vulnerable groups in China, such as the rights of Christians and the persecuted Falun Gong believers. As a result, he has been jailed and brutally tortured numerous times over the past 12 years. He has also been missing many times: the longest period was 21 months. He was confined alone in a small, dark cell that had no windows for a long time. His teeth were knocked out or fell out due to the beatings and lack of nutrition.
After he served his jail term in 2014, he was confined in a small village in his hometown. With barely a few teeth left, he could not eat properly or talk normally, but he was never allowed to see a dentist.
He is once again missing and has been so since mid-August of last year, and we have had no news of him for the last 284 days.
My mother, my brother, and I—as well as all of our relatives—are very worried. My uncle sought help from all the local police stations but got no result. He also hired two lawyers to inquire about my father’s whereabouts in Beijing but still got nowhere.
Dear Chancellor Merkel, I hope you can help me despite your busy schedule. I am very concerned about my father, who has already suffered so much from such severe torture.
I sincerely appreciate your help. I wish you a wonderful trip to China!
Daughter of Gao Zhisheng
Gao Zhisheng’s book, Unwavering Convictions, is available for purchase here.