China: Christian lawyer 'tortured in prison' kidnapped again

Gao Zhisheng is just one of many Chinese lawyers suffering under a government crackdown.China Aid

Human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng has been 'kidnapped' by Chinese officials after speaking out about his alleged torture in prison, according to China Aid.

Sources told the Texas-based organisation that Public Security Bureau officers arrived at the lawyer's home in Shaanxi province at 1pm on Thursday, "and began frantically searching for Gao." He had previously told China Aid that he expected to be detained again after giving an interview this week that detailed horrific torture at the hands of Chinese authorities.

Speaking out for the first time in five years, 51-year-old Gao told AP that he was tortured three times while in prison, and forced to live in a seven metre square confinement cell for three years. A Communist propaganda message was broadcast constantly for 68 weeks. "Those who persecuted me have used every means possible over the past nine years to break my spirit," he said. "Life in prison was absolutely terrible on a physical level... When I was tortured for the first time I was afraid, really afraid. But the second time I was not, because it's a matter of perception. Why was I not afraid? Because I knew that fear would not help, but cause more oppression and cruelty."

Gao is a two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, best known for his work defending Falun Gong adherents, Christians, and other persecuted social groups. He was first illegally detained by police in August 2006. Gao was initially sentenced to three years in prison for 'subversion,' followed by a probation period of five years. During this time, he was tortured in detention several times, including being hit with electrified batons and having a toothpick inserted into his genitals, while the government shut down his law practice in Beijing.

Gao was then sentenced to a further three years in prison for supposedly violating the terms of his probation in 2011, and his family were only allowed to visit twice during that time. He was eventually released in August 2014, but has lived under near constant supervision since, in the far western region of Xinjiang. Though his wife and children now live in the US, he refuses to seek exile abroad. "I thought about giving up and giving my time to my family, but it's the mission God has given me," he told AP.

According to China Aid, which also spoke to Gao this week ahead of his apparent kidnapping, the laywer said he was prepared to be tortured again because it "can't truly hurt" him anymore, and it will be the Chinese officials who instead suffer. He also insisted that he does not hate those who have mistreated him.

Gao is just one of many Chinese lawyers suffering under a government crackdown. According to Amnesty International, 245 have been targeted since July; 30 of whom remain missing or in police custody. The news of Gao's detention comes as pastor Huang Yizi, a pastor from the eastern province of Zhejiang, has been formally placed under criminal detention for "endangering national security."

Huang's wife was informed of this development on Thursday, though she has still not been told where he is being detained. Huang previously served a one year sentence for leading a prayer vigil against cross demolitions in Zhejiang but was released on August 1 this year. He was detained again on September 12.