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Manfred Nowak Discusses Two of China's Heroes

U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture: Part I: Gao Zhisheng and Hu Jia
By Florian Godovits, Epoch Times
July 28, 2009

Professor Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, spoke to The Epoch Times about famous human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, and Chinese pro-democracy and AIDS activist, Hu Jia.

Mr. Gao was last seen on February 4, 2009, as he was being taken away by a dozen Public Security Bureau officers from a relative's home in his hometown in Shaanxi Province. His current whereabouts is unknown. Mr. Hu was sentenced on April 3, 2008, to a three-and-a-half-year prison term on a charge of "inciting subversion of state power."

Mr. Gao suffered extensive torture in the hands of the regime following three open letters calling for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong.

"We have clear, believable testimony that he was subjected to massive torture, and then was released and placed under house arrest,” Mr. Nowak said. “In 2007 he described, in a letter that was released to the public, the tortures in great detail. And those are very believable to me. I have recently, once again, intervened on his behalf and attempted to get the Chinese government to grant him permission to emigrate, but it does not look good."

The Chinese regime has not replied to inquiries about Mr. Gao's torture.

“Of course the regime accuses him of their classic refrain, made to so many others: to have made false statements about China's human rights status,” Mr. Nowak said. “The Chinese government took no stand about inquiries into his torture—neither denied nor acknowledged them.”

On March 15 this year, Mr. Gao's wife, Geng He, and their 16-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son arrived in the United States after escaping through Thailand.

"The latest I am aware of is her [Ms. He's] harrowing escape from China with her daughter to Thailand. The pressure was huge on the Thai government—to repatriate her back to China. But through massive interventions from the U.S.A. and the European Union the two came to the U.S.A. This event made Mr. Gao's situation even more explosive. My last contact was before the escape. We fear that he is under severe duress because of his wife's escape," Mr. Nowak explained.

Both, Mr. Gao (once) and Mr. Hu (twice) have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Price.

“They are courageous people who during an increasingly harsh repression prior to the Olympics displayed the fortitude to continue to intervene for oppressed people and human rights,” Mr. Nowak said. “They deserve this prize ... Yes, either one, or both of them."

About Gao Zhisheng

Gao Zhisheng was named one of China’s top 10 lawyers by the Chinese regime in 2001, however he was disbarred by communist authorities in 2005 after calling for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong in a series of open letters to the Chinese regime.

Since then Gao has reported attempts on his life and has been arrested several times. Earlier this year, his family published a letter from Gao that detailed barbaric torture he suffered during a two-month period at the hands of his jailers.

About Hu Jia

In December 2007, Hu Jia participated in many social and human rights movements. He was detained by the Chinese regime on charges of “overthrowing state power,” and was sentenced to three years and six months in prison in March 2008.

According to a report from AFP on Oct. 9, 2008, when Hu received his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in September 2008, the Chinese regime pleaded with the prize committee not to consider awarding the prize to a “criminal.”

Excerpts from Gao Zhisheng's recount of his 50 days of torture last year

    In the following hours of torture, I passed out from time to time because of a lack of water and food, and heavy sweating. I was lying down on the cold floor naked. I felt several times someone come and open my eyes and shine a flashlight in them to see if I was still alive. When I would come to, I smelled the strong odor of stinky urine. My face, nose, and hair were filled with the smell. Obviously, but I don’t know when, someone had urinated on my face and head. Then, the electric shock batons were thrust all over me. And my full body, my heart, lungs and muscles began jumping under my skin uncontrollably. I was writhing on the ground in pain, trying to crawl away. Wang then shocked me in my penis. My begging them to stop only resulted in laughing and more unbelievable torture. After a few hours of this I had no energy to even beg, let alone try to escape.

In December 2004, Gao Zhisheng wrote his first open letter to China’s top leaders, “An Open Letter to China's National People's Congress.” That was followed by an open letter to Hu Jintao, the head of the Chinese Communist Party, and Wen Jiabao, China's premier, “Stop Persecuting Believers in Freedom and Mend Your Ties with the Chinese People” written in October 2005. On Dec. 12, 2005, he wrote another open letter to Hu and Wen, "Why One of China's Top Attorneys Broke with the Communist Party." In September 2007, Gao wrote his Open Letter to the U.S. Congress.

Manfred Nowak, from Austria, has been the U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture since 2004. He is also a law professor at the University of Vienna and was one of the judges of the Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia and Herzegovina between March 1996 and December 2003.

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