Xiao Yibing | Radio Free Asia
The sister of “disappeared” Chinese rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng has taken her own life out of despair at her family’s treatment at the hands of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), RFA has learned.
“We have had bad news at the beginning of the New Year,” Geng said via her Twitter account. “I was shocked to learn that Gao Zhisheng’s sister [died] in May 2020.”
Gao’s sister had suffered greatly following her brother’s most recent “disappearance” three years ago, and had suffered from insomnia and depression, Geng wrote.
Geng told RFA in a later interview that Gao’s sister’s problems could be traced back to a violent police raid on the family home in 2006, as Gao was visiting the family during her husband’s terminal illness.
State security police used force to take Gao away, while his sister and her children were placed under house arrest in a nearby hotel, Geng told RFA.
“[After that], she became depressed and unwell, and couldn’t sleep at nights,” Geng said.
Gao’s sister’s home in Shandong had been under close surveillance during Gao’s most recent “disappearance,” which has lasted more than three years, Geng said.
“The last time I spoke to his sister was in 2012,” she said. “I had two phone calls with my sister during Lunar New Year that year.”
“Then, the family indicated that I shouldn’t call any more, saying that that the child wouldn’t be allowed back home if I did,” Geng said. “So the whole family was being persecuted, and the atmosphere was very depressing [for them].”
Incommunicado over three years
Geng said Gao has now been incommunicado, believed detained, for more than three years, with no notification of his status and no known criminal procedures against him.
The family has hired lawyers to make repeated freedom-of-information requests to the ministry of justice and the prison authorities in a bid to find him, she said.
“People usually send cards to prisoners of conscience at this time of year, or save up food vouchers for them, but we wouldn’t know where to send them,” Geng said. “This rogue government is so frightened of everything; it can’t even tell Gao Zhisheng’s family where he is.”
Zhou Fengsuo, a former democracy activist who founded the U.S.-based rights group Humanitarian China, said persecution has indirectly led to deaths of many activists during the past 30 years.
“It makes me very sad,” Zhou told RFA. “This is more blood on the hands of the CCP. This death is a stain on this evil regime.”
“These tragedies will only come to an end when this evil regime falls,” he said.
U.S.-based rights lawyer Chen Jiangang said the treatment meted out to Gao and his family wasn’t unusual.
“You could even say it was inevitable, because the CCP is anti-human-rights,” Chen said. “This is a direct result.”
“It cares nothing for consequences, because it wants to stay in power, to rule the Chinese people,” he said.
He called on the international community to impose tougher sanctions on China to force the Chinese government to make concessions.
“There is a saying that the only language dictators understand is the sound of gunfire,” Chen said. “The entire civilized world needs to toughen up in its attitude to China, and start imposing even tougher sanctions.”
Defending China’s most vulnerable people
Gao, once a prominent lawyer feted by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, began to be targeted by the authorities after he defended some of China’s most vulnerable people, including Christians, coal miners, and followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.
Gao was arrested and sentenced for “inciting subversion of state power,” and was subsequently “disappeared” several times before finally being sent to serve his sentence.
Rights groups including Amnesty International have repeatedly called on the Chinese government to immediately and unconditionally release Gao.
In a published memoir in 2016, Gao details the torture he later endured at the hands of the authorities during his time in prison, as well as three years of solitary confinement, during which he said he was sustained by his Christian faith and his hopes for China.
Activists say his continuing house arrest even after being “released” from jail mirrors the treatment meted out to fellow rights lawyers and activists under CCP leader Xi Jinping.