Missing China dissident recounts abuse: report

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Missing Chinese rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has not been heard from since April 2010, said his life "hung by a thread" during a brutal two-day beating by police, The Associated Press has reported.

News of the dramatic account given to the AP last year by Gao, in which the dissident describes how he was stripped naked and violently pistol-whipped for two days, comes a week before Chinese President Hu Jintao visits Washington.

The agency, which said Gao had asked that the story not be published unless he went missing again or found safe haven abroad, said it decided to release details from the April interview due to Gao's prolonged disappearance.

"That degree of cruelty, there's no way to recount it," Gao said, adding the beating he suffered at the hands of three police officers in September 2009 was the worst he had endured in 14 months of detention that began early that year.

"For 48 hours, my life hung by a thread."

The lawyer -- who defended some of China's most vulnerable people including Christians and coal miners -- said he was hooded several times during his captivity in hostels, farm houses, flats and prisons in several cities.

He said in September 2009 the officers beat him with handguns in holsters for two days and nights, taking turns. They also committed abuses which he refused to describe. When they grew tired, they bound him with plastic bags.

He said the torture was worse than what he endured during a previous disappearance, when he said he suffered electric shocks to his genitals and cigarette burns to his eyes.

"You must forget you're human. You're a beast," Gao said his jailers told him, according to The Associated Press.

Gao disappeared in February 2009, sparking global concern.

He only reappeared in March last year when he was apparently released by police, speaking with a few friends and colleagues, many of whom reported that he continued to be tailed by authorities and was in ill-health.

A month later, Gao disappeared again and has not been heard from since.

His wife Geng He, who fled to the United States in early 2009 with their two children, told the AP she had had no news of him since last April.

"This could help us get some news of him and gain his freedom," she said. Geng was not immediately available for comment to AFP.

Gao's troubles began more than five years ago, when he renounced his Communist Party membership and openly called for an end to a crackdown on the banned Falungong spiritual group.

In December 2006, he was convicted of subversion and given a suspended sentence of three years in prison, immediately placed under house arrest and put on probation for five years.

The plight of human rights activists in China has come under the spotlight since the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in October to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo, with the West pressing for the release of all political prisoners.

The United States has raised Gao's case with Chinese authorities in the past, and with Hu set to visit Washington on January 19, Gao's account could prompt lawmakers to push for the issue to be on the agenda.