Chinese Christian human rights lawyer released from prison

Gao Zhisheng(Photo: China Aid Association)

Prominent Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng has been released by Chinese authorities, his brother has confirmed.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has released information that Gao's brother was told he would be released yesterday, 7 August, from Shaya Prison in Xinjiang province.

According to CSW, reports on social media confirm Gao's subsequent release, but it is as yet unclear whether there are any conditions or restrictions on his freedom.

The BBC says Gao is now at his father-in-law's home in Urumqi.

A two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee who is best known for his work defending Falun Gong adherents, Christians, and other persecuted social groups, Gao was first illegally detained by police in August 2006.

He was 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, and 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.

His wife, Geng He, has been living in the US with their two children after being granted asylum. She has not been able to speak with her husband following his release, which human rights laywer Hu Jia says is because Gao is under tight security.

"[Gao's brother] is concerned that the state security police may retaliate against Gao," she explained in an interview with Radio Free Asia.

"The state security police have warned Gao that he cannot give any speech during the one-year deprivation of politicalrights."

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas has welcomed Gao's release, and urged the Chinese authorities to grant him "full freedom".

"Gao Zhisheng, sometimes called 'the conscience of China', has been through years of imprisonment, torture and enforced disappearance," he said in a statement.

"We call on the Chinese government to grant Gao his full freedom, without any further conditions or restrictions on him or his family in China."