Appeal for help
We write to seek support from members of the Canadian legal profession in order to help secure the release of Gao Zhisheng, a leading Chinese rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, who was abducted and tortured by Chinese security agents largely for defending Falun Gong adherents and publicly exposing the atrocities they have suffered. Gao has been missing since February 2009.
Mr. Gao was a successful practising lawyer and by 2001 China's Ministry of Justice had rated him as one of China's top ten lawyers. He is a Christian, and has opposed persecutions against Protestants and Catholics and also has defended workers who have been victimized by Chinese government policy. But it was his defence of Falun Gong victims which led directly to his subjection to inhuman tortures at the hands of the Chinese government.
Falun Gong is a spiritual practice based on the principle of Truth, Compassion, Forbearance and five sets of meditative exercises introduced in China in 1992. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) initiated a campaign of State terror and hate propaganda intended to eradicate Falun Gong after this popular practice had attracted 100 million people, outnumbering CCP members, by 1999.
Since July 1999, with the extreme vilification of Falun Gong in and outside China, the victimization of the group has also been horrendous, far greater than that of any other group. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture reported in March 2006 that 66% of the victims of alleged torture and ill treatment in China were Falun Gong practitioners. Over 3,000 identified Falun Gong practitioners have died as a result of persecution and there is compelling and substantial evidence Indicating that tens of thousands of unidentified Falun Gong practitioners have been murdered by the Beijing regime for the purpose of harvesting all their organs for use in transplant operations for profit.
Gao's Three Open Letters for Falun Gong
It was this maelstrom into which Gao threw himself. Gao's ordeal began when he started investigating the persecution of Falun Gong and subsequently published three open letters to top Chinese officials.
In 2004, he defended a Falun Gong practitioner who had been illegally persecuted and sentenced without trial to a labor camp. Upon finding that judges refused to hear the case because of "orders from above," he wrote an open letter to China's National People's Congress.
On October 18, 2005, Gao wrote his second open letter to Hu Jingtao and Wen Jiabao, urging them to end the "barbaric" persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, detailing a wide range of abuses they suffer in custody, including torture, sexual assault, beatings, and executions. Within days of sending the letter, Gao Zhisheng and his family were put under 24-hour police surveillance. In early November that year, his law firm was shut down and soon afterwards his licence to practise law was suspended.
Later in November 2005, Gao traveled to northeast China and spent two weeks interviewing Falun Gong practitioners in an investigation of the torture they had suffered. Upon his return, he published another open letter to China's top leaders, detailing what he had found. He wrote,
"Among the true accounts of unbelievable brutality, among the records of the government's inhuman torture of its own people, the immoral acts that shocked my soul the most were the lewd yet routine practice of attacking women's genitals by 6-10 Office staff and the police. Almost every woman's genitals and breasts or every man's genitals have been sexually assaulted during the persecution in a most vulgar fashion...."
In the wake of this third open letter, his subsequent resignation of CCP membership, and his meeting with Dr. Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, on January 17, 2006, according to Amnesty International, Mr. Gao narrowly escaped an alleged assassination attempt.
On December 22, 2006, Mr. Gao was convicted of "subversion." He was sentenced to three years in prison, which was suspended, and placed on probation for five years.
On September 22, 2007, after writing to the US Congress calling for a boycott of the Olympics, Gao was secretly taken away once again by Chinese State security police. In August 2008 reports surfaced that he had been tortured for close to two months in the same way that Falun Gong practitioners have been tortured.
In the early morning of February 4, 2009 the State security police took Gao away from his home in Shaanxi. He has been missing ever since.
Responsibilities of the International Legal Profession
Today, Gao Zhisheng is China's foremost leader in the rights movement and has become an icon of the Chinese rights defenders fighting for the basic rights of the Chinese people. He has been called "China's conscience". He was the 2007 recipient of the prestigious 'American Board of Trial Advocates' Courageous Advocacy Award.
What has happened to Gao should be a wake-up call to the international community concerning the Chinese State's disregard for human rights and the rule of law.
In Gao's open letter depicting the fifty days of horrific torture he suffered in 2007 at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), he expresses a few thoughts directed to the international community: "I want to remind those so-called global 'good friends', 'good partners' as called by the CCP that the increasing degree of brutality and cruelty against the Chinese people by the CCP is the direct result of appeasement by both you and us (our own Chinese people)."
There is a moral responsibility on members of the legal profession in every country which enjoys the Rule of Law to speak out in support of their Chinese colleagues who are victims of torture intimidation and who are deprived of their right to practise law by a Chinese government.
Canadian lawyers have in the recent past stood up for Pakistani lawyers facing persecution at the time; the present persecution of Chinese lawyers is exponentially more severe than that which the Pakistani lawyers experienced, but to date, with the exception of Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, and the Law Society of Upper Canada, Canadian lawyers have been strangely silent about the reprehensible persecution of their fellow lawyers in China.
Clive Ansley, China Monitor for Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, described Gao Zhisheng on the occasion of the 62nd session of the UN general assembly in New York:
"Has there ever been a man at any time, in any country, who has shown more courage than Gao Zhisheng, staring down the most brutal and vicious oppressor in modern world history? Has there ever been a man at any time, in any country, whose courage has been so married to integrity, ethics, and morality?
Has there ever been a man at any time, in any country, who has been more ready to sacrifice his own life for the good of his fellow citizens; citizens not only of China by citizens of the world?
There may well have been a precious few in human history whose sacrifices and courage have equaled those of Gao Zhisheng, but I can think of none who surpasses him."
What You Can Do
1. Write a letter to:
Hu Jintao, President of China
Zhongnanhai Beijing, People's Republic of China
2. Write to governmental and non-governmental organizations that are cooperating with China's legal systems such as CIDA and the Canadian Bar Association, as well as your provincial law societies, to raise your concern and ask these organizations to urge their Chinese counterparts to press for the release of Gao Zhisheng .
3. Write to Prime Minister Harper, and to the opposition leaders Michael Ignatieff, who is set to visit China, Mr. Jack Layton and Mr. Gilles Duceppe and ask them to urge the Chinese government to release Gao Zhisheng:
Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Mailing Address: PMO Office, 80 Wellington Street,Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A2
Mr. Michael Ignatieff
Fax: (613) 992-5880
Mr. Gilles Duceppe
Fax: (613) 954-2121
Mr. Jack Layton
Fax: (613) 995-4565
Mailing Address for all: House of Commons Ottawa.Ontario K1A 0A6
We thank you very much for your attention.
On behalf of Canadian Friends of Gao Zhisheng
Clive Ansley: firstname.lastname@example.org, Canadian Human Rights Lawyer, and China Monitor for Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada
David Matas: email@example.com, International Human Rights Lawyer
Hon. David Kilgour: firstname.lastname@example.org, Former MP and Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific
1. Lawyer Gao Zhisheng's account of being tortured by the Chinese State: chinaaid.org
2. Lawyer Gao Zhisheng's open letters to Chinese leaders / letter 1 / letter 2 / letter 3 and the U.S. Congress letter detailing his own investigation into atrocities against Falun Gong.
3. Remarks by David Matas delivered at the American Board of Trial Advocates Directors Meeting honouring Gao Zhisheng on June 30,2007, Santa Barbara, California on presentation of the Courageous Advocacy Award to Gao Zhisheng