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China Revokes Probation for 'Disappeared' Christians Human Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng, Sends Him Back to Jail

Contact: Bob Fu, President, Bob@ChinaAid.org; Mark Shan, Spokesperson, Mark@ChinaAid.org; both with China Aid Association, 888-889-7757; 267-205-5210; www.ChinaAid.org; www.MonitorChina.org

BEIJING, Dec. 16, 2011 /Christian Newswire/ -- In the first official word about Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who disappeared into police custody nearly two years ago, the Chinese government announced Friday that it was revoking his probation and sending him back to prison.

The news, conveyed in a brief official Xinhua News Agency dispatch (news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2011-12/16/c_131311157.htm), was a devastating blow to Gao's family and those who have been championing his case.  None of his family was notified by the authorities about the development, and Gao's older brother and wife learned of the news from reporters.

According to Xinhua, the Beijing First Intermediate People's Court on Friday said Gao "had seriously violated probation rules a number of times, which led to the court decision to withdraw the probation."  Gao was sentenced on Dec. 22, 2006 to three years in prison with five years of probation on a subversion charge.

He was soon released on probation, but in 2009 he disappeared into police custody and has re-appeared only for a few brief periods, the last time in April 2010, when he gave an exclusive interview to the American news organization Associated Press in which he detailed the brutal torture he had experienced at police hands (www.chinaaid.org/2011/01/ap-exclusive-missing-chinese-lawyer.html).

There has been no word from him since then, and his family has even wondered whether he was alive.  Friday's news confirmed that he was still alive, but provided no information of his whereabouts or condition.

A weeping Geng He, Gao's wife, told ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu, "We [his family] have been waiting for Gao's freedom for five years. This is absolutely unacceptable.  How can he commit any crime when he is held in the hands of government agents?"

Geng had hoped in August, the five-year anniversary of Gao's arrest, that he might be released then.  China's judiciary often counts time spent in custody awaiting trial as time served, and by that reckoning, Gao's five years of probation would end on the date of his arrest in 2006.  However, that day came and went with no release nor any news of Gao, and so the family had pinned their hopes on the Dec. 22 date.

"Where is justice for Gao?" Geng asked.  "I want to be reunited with my husband.  My children want to see their dad.  Please help me ask U.S. congressional leaders for their help."

ChinaAid has been championing Gao's case from the beginning, and has helped to push Gao's case onto the international stage.  In addition to helping bring Gao's wife and two children to the United States, ChinaAid has been providing financial support for them, and arranging for opportunities for Geng to plead her case before Congress and at other important venues.

Fu has vowed to Geng that his organization will not give up until Gao is freed.

"Gao is the poster-child of Beijing's brutality and a hero to a rapidly growing number of Chinese," Fu said.  "If the Obama Administration wants to 're-engage' with Asia, it should start by standing up for those like Gao, who are jailed for peacefully seeking freedom and human rights."

He added, "In the current state of U.S.-China relations, silence is not a diplomatic option.  We urge global community to tell Beijing that this act is not acceptable and will hinder China's interests in the world."

Fu on Friday had contacted the U.S. State Department, the House Foreign Relations Committee and several congressional leaders, as well as members of the European Parliament, urging them to speak out.

The Xinhua report said that Gao would "serve his term in prison in the next three years," but did not explain or say in which prison he would be held.

Gao, who had at one time been hailed by the Chinese government as one of its top lawyers, angered the government when he began taking on a string of human rights cases, including defending Falun Gong practitioners and blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng, who had exposed violent and brutal family planning measures.