Dramatic escape and recapture of imprisoned Chinese Christian lawyer

Gao ZhishengWikimedia Commons

The Chinese Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng escaped house arrest in August and hid for 23 days before being recaptured, according to International Christian Concern (ICC).

ICC said that, with the help of two friends, Gao escaped from his home in Shaanxi and hid in a holiday house in Jiexiu city in a neighboring province, until Shaanxi police mobilised a large number of officers to cross the border and recapture him. While his friends were detained, according to ICC, Gao vanished again and now is believed to be under police custody in Beijing.

A friend who assisted with the rescue, Li Fawang, was released on October 26 with bail pending trial.

'Upon learning that Gao sought to escape from his house arrest, Shao Zhongguo snuck him out and the two met with Li Fawang in neighboring province Shanxi. Li had pre-arranged with a local friend to provide accommodations for Gao until they found another safe haven. Their plan went unnoticed until about three weeks later when both Shao and Li were arrested and detained by the police,' ICC said.

Li fleetingly saw Gao when he was about to be transported back to Shaanxi for detention, according to the group. 'The encounter was so brief that Li was unable to utter a word to Gao. Gao's whereabouts became unknown after they parted ways.'

Both Li and Shao reported suffering mistreatment while being detained. They were shackled, beaten, denied daily necessities, fed leftover food, and Li, who suffers from diabetes, was not given medicine for the first few days and lost his eyesight as a result.

Gao's lawyers yesterday visited two ministry of public security offices in the Shaanxi province to inquire about Gao's case on November 8, ICC reported. 'Officials from different offices all responded with, "No, we do not handle his case."'

Gao's health is reportedly declining. He has in the past publiclay documented the mistreatment he has received while being detained by the Chinese authorities. Gao's memoir, A China More Just (2007), documents his 'fight as a rights lawyer in the world's largest communist state'. He has been detained a number of times over the decades, and first disappeared in 2009.

Gina Goh, ICC's regional manager, said: 'Though we are glad to know that...Gao enjoyed brief freedom that was taken away from him for more than a decade, we are concerned about his treatment after being recaptured. In most cases, the Chinese government treats human rights advocates and Christians on the same level as terrorists once they are imprisoned, often putting them through torture and solitary confinement. Given Gao's successful escape, he is subject to retaliation from law enforcement. We hereby urge the Chinese government to stop its unlawful detention of...Gao immediately.'