OTTAWA—Supporters rallied in front of the Chinese embassy today to continue the worldwide call for release of a renowned human rights lawyer whom Chinese authorities abducted last month and previously tortured in the same way they tortured the Falun Gong practitioners he defended.
A Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Mr. Gao was taken from his home in Shaanxi province by more than 10 security agents on February 4.
The abduction occurred just days before release of an open letter in which he documented more than 50 days of horrific state-sponsored torture he suffered in 2007.
Pam McLennan, host of the rally, called Mr. Gao “a good man who has been betrayed by his beloved country China.”
“As a lawyer he has represented the disadvantaged and downtrodden, Christians, and other minorities… However, when he went to court to defend Falun Gong practitioners and publicly spoke out about the illegality of persecuting Falun Gong, his government saw fit in November 2005 to remove his license to practise law and to close down his office,” Ms. McLennan said.
Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, is a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the communist state since 1999. At least 3242 practitioners are confirmed dead due to persecution.
“His torturers repeatedly linked his treatment to that of Falun Gong,” said Grace Wollensak of the Falun Dafa Association of Canada.
“The twelve courses [of torture techniques] we’re going to give to you were practiced on the Falun Gong,” they said, as recalled by Mr. Gao in his account.
Mr. Gao told of being shocked with electric batons all over his body, including in the mouth and on his genitals. The torturers also used toothpicks to pierce his genitals.
They threatened that if he told the outside world what happened he would be abducted again and tortured in front of his wife and children.
In 2004 and 2005 Mr. Gao, a devout Christian, wrote three open letters to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders detailing his investigation into the persecution and calling for it to stop.
He was undeterred even after removal of his law license and continued to speak out. When he was sentenced to three years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power,” the regime suspended the sentence for five years apparently as a result of international pressure.
Mr. Gao’s account of torture was released on February 9 on his behalf by Human Rights in China and the Christian organization China Aid Association. The torture occurred in September 2007 when he was abducted after writing an open letter to the U.S. Congress denouncing the state of human rights in China.
One of China’s ‘truest patriots’
Former Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific David Kilgour spoke on behalf of the group Friends of Gao Zhisheng at the rally.
“Mr. Gao is by far one of the truest patriots of your country,” he read from a letter from the group to Chinese leader Hu Jingtao.
Mr. Kilgour likened Mr. Gao to Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Abraham Lincoln. “He is an enormous giant of a person and all of us in Canada who are his friends and are concerned about him are politely asking the government of China to release him,” he said.
A self-trained Beijing attorney, Mr. Gao has been called “the conscience of Chinese lawyers” for his defence of victims of rights violations, devoting one third of his time pro bono. China’s Ministry of Justice named him one of the country’s top 10 lawyers in 2001.
Mr. Gao "represents the best of humanity," said Brian McAdam, a former diplomat who served for many years in China and Hong Kong. "The man has incredible courage beyond belief. God is on his side."
George Vanee attended the rally to give his support to Mr. Gao, “a fellow Christian” and “a courageous man.” It’s important that China allows voices of dissent if the country wants to improve human rights and harmony,” he said. “That will lead to a better China.”
Ottawa businessman Shi Xingjian noted that under the CCP the moral standard has become “extremely low” in China.
Many Chinese people dare not speak out against the persecutors for their own self-interest, he said, but Mr. Gao stood on the side of conscience despite knowing the consequences.
“He has set a great example for Chinese people and people around the world. He represents the best of the Chinese nation and makes us proud,” said Mr. Shi.
Two readers of the Epoch Times came to the rally after seeing the advertisement of the rally in last week’s issue.
“It’s hard for me to understand how such barbaric practices are still carried out in any part of the world by any people with intelligence,” said Frank Quinn.
He would like to say to Mr. Gao, “don’t give up hope. There are people outside China’s borders who care about what is happening and will do their best to put on pressure.”
Louis Freve, a member of Amnesty International, said he felt “Canada is not doing enough to support the people of China who are being persecuted.”
At a press conference on Parliament Hill this morning, Mr. Kilgour and Ms. Wollensak, along with NDP Human Rights Critic Wayne Marston and Amnesty International Canada’s Secretary General Alex Neve, called on the Canadian government to demand that China release Mr. Gao.