Renowned Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng was conferred the “Ten Best Human Rights Defence Lawyers Award” by the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Association (CHRLA) on July 24th. As Gao remains imprisoned in China, his wife Geng He accepted the award on Gao’s behalf at Capitol Hill.
“I am delighted to see that despite a brutal crackdown and persecution against lawyers who uphold justice in China, more responsible and courageous lawyers have emerged in China. They are the hope and backbone of the nation. I wish for more people to be inspired and step forward to contribute to Chinese human rights and the rule of law,” said Geng in her speech.
In 2005, Gao Zhisheng, once a Beijing-based human rights lawyer, wrote open letters to China’s top leaders and urged them to stop persecuting practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that adheres to the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Gao was arrested and jailed soon after. His wife and two children managed to escape to the United States despite heavy surveillance.
During the first five years of Gao’s imprisonment, Gao’s family members were denied knowledge of his whereabouts. But on March 24th this year, Gao’s brother was told that the lawyer was being detained at a prison in Xayar County in the Uighur region of Xinjiang.
“From March 24th until today, July 24th, for the whole four months we called the prison thousands of times, but they did not answer. We don’t have any information regarding Gao Zhisheng. It really worries us. Why are we denied the right to visit him as family members?” asked Geng.
Geng revealed that she has kept her son in the dark about his father’s situation, “Every day when school finishes, I started being afraid that my son would ask to go back to China to see his dad. It is that request that makes me most nervous,” said Geng. “Gao Zhisheng needs freedom! My child and I will not enjoy freedom until the day Gao Zhisheng enjoys his.”
Nine other Chinese lawyers won the title of “Ten Best Human Rights Defence Lawyers Award” along with Gao. China Aid Association’s “2012 Religious Freedom and Rule of Law Defenders Award” went to Dr Fan Yafeng, Dr Teng Biao, and lawyer Jiang Tianyong.
Many of the award winners are being persecuted in China for their human rights activism. “They fight hard for the causes of the rule of law and human rights, but they and their families must pay a tremendous price. What they have encountered is far beyond the imagination of people living in the civilized world,” Geng said.