China: Family of Gao Zhisheng told he will be released on 7 August 18/07/2014
Prison authorities have told the family of Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng that he will be released on 7 August 2014, according to his wife Geng He.
In an interview with Radio Free Asia, translated by China Aid, Geng He said that Gao’s brother had managed to contact Shaya Prison, where Gao is being held, to request a visit. The prison authorities told Gao’s brother that he would be released on 7 August after finishing his time in prison. However, the prison did not respond to his brother’s request to collect him from prison on 7 August, and said that the prison needed to contact Beijing to work out the specifics of his release.
Gao Zhisheng is a prominent Christian human rights lawyer who is best known for his work defending Christians, Falun Gong adherents, and other persecuted social groups. As a result, the government shut down his law firm and revoked his lawyer’s license. In August 2006, Gao was illegally detained by the police, and on 22 December 2006, he was sentenced to three years in prison with a probation period of five years, on the charge of “inciting to subvert the state power.” During his probation, he was forcibly disappeared six times and was severely tortured in detention. In April 2010, Gao disappeared again while visiting his in-laws in Xinjiang. On 16 December 2011, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that Gao had violated the terms of his probation and had been returned to prison for three years.
Legal experts previously calculated that Gao should be released in August or September this year, but this is the first time the prison authorities have given a specific date. Gao’s wife Geng He made the release date public earlier this month via Twitter, and linked to a website counting down the days until Gao’s release.
However, concerns remain about the degree to which the authorities will grant Gao genuine freedom after 7 August, and whether his release will be subject to conditions or restrictions.
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said, “We welcome the news from the prison authorities that Gao Zhisheng will be released on 7 August. At the same time, we share the concerns of Gao’s family about the details of his release and the possibility of further restrictions on his freedom. We believe that lawyer Gao was targeted for his advocacy for the rights of religious minorities and other vulnerable groups, and further note the many incidences of extra-legal measures against Gao since 2006, including enforced disappearance and torture in detention. We call on the Chinese authorities to release Gao Zhisheng on 7 August without any further restrictions on his freedom.”