WASHINGTON—People listened attentively at an Oct. 7 hearing of the U.S.-Executive Commission on China (CECC) on Capitol Hill to an update on the status of renowned human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng.
The commission invited four China experts to give testimony on various aspects of China’s legal system, and one of them, John Kamm, had just come back from the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., the day before the hearing.
Mr. Kamm, founder and executive director of the Dui Hua (“dialogue") Foundation, has been successful in the past in obtaining information on China’s prisoners of conscience.
Lawyer Gao, 43, known as the “conscience of China,” was abducted by a dozen security agents on Feb. 4, and the Chinese regime has not answered queries on his whereabouts or health since. The latter is of much concern because of fears that he has been maltreated and tortured, as he has been in the past. Gao’s personal account of over 50 days of torture in 2007, including electric shocks to his genitals, at the hands of China’s secret police was published in February 2009.
Gao was an army veteran and self-taught lawyer, who had a highly successful law practice until Chinese authorities closed down his law office. Voted one of the 10 best lawyers in China by the Ministry of Justice in 2001, his fortunes changed when he began to defend Falun Gong practitioners and wrote public letters to Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabiao in 2005, the National People’s Congress in 2004, and to the U.S. Congress in 2007 criticizing the “barbaric” treatment of Falun Gong. He also resigned from the Chinese Communist Party in December 2005. Gao’s wife and two children fled to the United States in January.
Co-chairman of the CECC Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND) said lawyer Gao has been branded “enemy of the state.”
“Gao represented some of China’s most vulnerable people, including exploited coal miners, Christians, Falun Gong members. ... He believed in the power of the law and sought to use the law to battle corruption, expose police abuses, and defend religious freedom,” said Sen. Dorgan.
Sen. Dorgan said he has written Chinese authorities on numerous occasions about the status of lawyer Gao Zhisheng.
Mr. Kamm said the Chinese Embassy told him that Gao was permitted to go to his home village in northern Sha’anxi Province to pay respects to his ancestors. He was told, “Gao is not being mistreated, is fine” and is not being subjected to “compulsory legal measures.” Kamm also said that a friend of Gao’s reported on his blog of having received a call in July. Presumably, the call was allowed to prove that Gao was alive.
“Unfortunately, we still don’t know his whereabouts; there is concern for his well-being, obviously,” said Mr. Kamm. “Finally, we have no idea on what basis he is being held. We are basically being told he is not being held for legal reasons.”
Mr. Kamm said Gao has “disappeared” and compared this situation to the “disappearance” of Bishop Su Zhimin, leader of the Catholic underground Church of China, who has gone “missing” for 12 years.
Sen. Dorgan thanked Mr. Kamm and said: “We don’t know the whereabouts or what [Gao] has been charged with. We do know he was abducted from his home after his family escaped China. We do know he was previously incarcerated and tortured in China. We also know that his behavior was the behavior of a lawyer who had a law office, doing the professional work of people who needed the help of a lawyer, and for that, he apparently has been incarcerated.”
“I would say to the Chinese Embassy in the United States: The responses I have received from them about Mr. Gao are wholly unresponsive and unsatisfactory to me and this commission. We would hope that the Chinese Embassy and the government of China would take seriously our concerns about Mr. Gao.”
Tiananmen Massacre Victim Stands Up Before Commission
Before the hearing began, the commissioners observed that Fang Zheng, a paraplegic, his wife, and daughter were present in the audience. Their presence prompted the commissioners to make impromptu remarks on Mr. Fang’s courage and fortitude.
Mr. Fang brought applause and cheers as he stood up, with the aid of his new legs. For 20 years, he had been confined to a wheel chair, after losing his legs during the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989 in Beijing. This story of Mr. Fang’s ongoing battle with the China’s current communist rulers is discussed below.
Fang Zhang was a sprinter with hopes of representing China at the Olympics when his legs were crushed by a tank. This tragedy wasn’t an accident, but a deliberate act by China’s regime. On June 4, 1989, Fang and thousands of other protesters at Tiananmen Square, with dreams of bringing democratic reform to China’s one-party system, were running from the grenades and tanks ordered by the communist regime to stop the protesters. Fang nearly lost his life, and his legs had to be amputated.
The school that he had just graduated from, the Beijing Academy of Physical Science, pressured him to keep quiet about how the tanks crushed him and the other students at Tiananmen.
Despite the end of his career as a sprinter, Fang wanted to compete and so switched to other field events, discus and javelin. He competed in 1992 in the All-China Disabled Athletic Games in Guangzhou, winning two gold medals, according to Fang. But when he qualified to compete in the 1994 Far East and South Pacific Disabled Games, the regime would not allow it, perhaps fearing he would speak to the foreign press. He never got the degree he had earned, making employment extremely difficult to find.
Since Fang was barred from competition and without his teaching certificate, no one would hire him and he was constantly harassed by the China National Security Bureau. He would not be intimidated and spoke to the media about his unfair treatment and the truth about the Tiananmen Massacre. Perhaps to get rid of him, last year he was given a visa to the United States.
When Fang arrived in the United States in early 2009, many people who were moved by his story came to his aid, including Bob Fu from ChinaAid; human rights activists Zhou Fengsuo, Chai Ling, and Michael Horowitz from the Hudson Institute; and U.S. congressmen Joseph Pitts (R-PA) and Frank Wolf (D-VA). The Ossur Corporation and doctors at the Adventist Hospital, Maryland, donated the prostheses, enabling Mr. Fang to stand up at the hearing.
After the hearing at the Capitol Building, several congressmen, China human rights activists, and well-wishers attended a news conference and photo opportunity of Mr. Fang standing and walking.