The United States is concerned over the plight of renowned Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng.
Mr. Gao spent more than five years in prison in China on charges of “inciting subversion of the state” because of his work on behalf of victims of human rights violations, including members of Chinese
In prison, he was reportedly kept for years in a tiny cell in solitary confinement, starved, and beaten. He was released from a prison in August 2014 in the northwestern region of Xinjiang and is now living with family members. He has lost half his teeth, suffered extensive weight loss, and urgently needs access to healthcare. He is restricted from travelling from his current location and remains under daily surveillance by Chinese authorities.
Mr. Gao’s wife Geng He and two children fled China in 2009 and now live in the United States. Ms. Geng now wants Chinese authorities to allow her husband to leave China so he can reunite with his family in the United States.
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf noted the U.S. government has raised Mr. Gao’s case at senior levels in Washington and Beijing. “We have urged Chinese authorities to lift all restrictions on his movements so that he will be able to travel freely and reunite with his family as soon as possible. We remain deeply concerned about his health since he was released on August 7th after serving years in solitary confinement,” she said.
As U.S officials have noted, China has lifted millions of people out of poverty in the last three decades –- which is a great achievement. But as the State Department said in its most recent human rights report on China, “Repression and coercion, particularly against organizations and individuals involved in civil and political rights advocacy and public interest issues, ethnic minorities, and law firms that took on sensitive cases, were routine.”
This is not worthy of a great country, whose people, like those the world over, yearn to express their democratic aspirations. As Secretary of State John Kerry wrote recently in honor of the International Day of Democracy, “Democratic societies are strong societies because people are free to speak out against injustice and to discuss, debate and work together to drive positive change…As the United States works to strengthen our democracy at home, we will continue to support those around the world fighting for their voices to be heard.”