Right Honourable Prime Minister Stephen Harper
80 Wellington Street
Dear Prime Minster Harper,
We are writing to appeal to you and your government to intervene on our behalf for the immediate release of the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated lawyer Gao Zhisheng by the Chinese government. We are also appealing for your continuous support for the courageous struggle for human rights for all by the Chinese people in general and Mr. Gao in particular.
In 2001, Gao was named one of China's top ten lawyers. At the time, he donated a third of his time to victims of human rights violations, representing miners, evicted tenants and others. However, the party-state unleashed its full wrath after he wrote to officials at a high level in the Chinese regime, calling for an end to government persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual practice, though he is not a Falun Gong practitioner himself.
The regimes' persecution of Gao started with removing his permit to practise law, an attempt on his life, having police attack his wife and 14-year-old daughter and four-year-old son and denying the family any income. It intensified when Gao responded in the nonviolent tradition of Gandhi by launching nationwide hunger strikes calling for justice and human rights in China.
In 2006, he was sentenced to three years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power", although international pressure appears to have caused a suspension of the sentence for five years.
On June 24, 2007, Gao was kidnapped by the Chinese government in order to prevent him from attending an award ceremony in the United States. The American Board of Trial Advocates selected Gao to receive the prestigious Courageous Advocacy Award; they had wished to present the award to Gao personally in California on June 30, 2007.
In September 2007, Gao was abducted after writing an open letter to the U.S. Congress to explain the human rights situation preceding the 2008 Olympics.
Predictably, Gao did speak out again when he was released. In his most recent article a few weeks ago, he wrote about over 50 days of excruciating torture. His letter included this:
“Then, the electric shock batons were put all over me. And my full body, my heart, lungs, and muscles began jumping under my skin uncontrollably. I was writhing on the ground in pain, trying to crawl away. Wang [one of the lead torturers] then shocked me in my genitals.”
Gao wrote further describing his ordeal in a separate incident: “Then two people stretched out my arms and pinned them to the ground. They used toothpicks to pierce my genitals. I can't use any language to describe the helplessness, pain, and despair that I felt then. At a point like that, language and emotion do not have the power to explain.”
In his account, Gao said that the torturers mentioned they were using the same torture methods that they had earlier refined on Falun Gong practitioners. He admitted that he had tried to kill himself to stop the suffering, and that he believed God helped him to come back from the brink of death.
Since his recent letter, Mr. Gao has disappeared again, presumably re-arrested, to the great concern of many in China and elsewhere. For his full account, please see enclosed "Dark Night, Dark Hood and Kidnapping by Dark Mafia." More information can also be found at www.david-kilgour.com in the Human Rights section.
Human rights organizations have long documented continued persecution by the Chinese government of its own citizens in violation of basic human dignity. In response, the party-state in Beijing has continuously ignored worldwide criticism of its appalling human rights record. Most recently, during the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Human Rights, the Chinese authorities rejected almost all the recommendations aimed at promoting democracy and human rights made by all the EU member states and by Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, Switzerland as well as Canada.
Gao’s memoir A China More Just, published the Fall of 2007, in English in the United States, captures such a record in compelling words:
"For we will experience and witness how the greatest people on earth banished this suffering once and for all! I am moved by an ardent hope that by articulating it, I may in some way help to relieve China of the crushing burden on her back. ...... Whatever the case, these are words that tell a tale both of the people’s violent, sanguinary, bitter pain, as well as of the noble character, dignity, and resoluteness of the freedom fighters who are counted among them. Yet no words, however strong, can possibly describe the darkness and terrible barbarity of today’s dictators in China, nor the tragic annihilation of Chinese culture that they have perpetrated."
Well-wishers of China had long hoped that the country’s economic growth would be accompanied by increased respect for human rights and the rule of law. The reality has been quite the contrary; instead of honouring the obligations prescribed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which China is a signatory, blatant human rights violations persist.
The excuse used by the Chinese party-state for persecuting Gao Zhisheng is that Falun Gong must be eradicated. Falun Gong is an exercise and spiritual community, which promotes "truth, compassion and forbearance." Falun Gong is only one of the faith groups and voices of dissent being persecuted in China. There are other courageous heroes like Gao in China, virtually unknown and unsung outside their own land, who face impossible odds and stand as witnesses of the truth as corruption, bribery, extortion, brutality, threats, and outright murder take place on a daily basis.
Having courageously sought justice for vulnerable groups such as the poor, the disabled, and the persecuted, Gao's story is a light shining in the darkness, and a reminder that all of us must stand up for what we believe and affirm.
The Chinese government has wrongly accused Mr. Gao and other critics of China's human rights records of interfering with Chinese affairs when in fact Mr. Gao is by far one of the country's truest patriots. He follows the footsteps of Lu Xun, one of China's most outstanding modern authors, who argued against a cultural environment obsessed with saving face and repeatedly called for social change, democratic development and respect for human dignity.
By failing to stop gross and systematic human rights violations, or acting so often as the perpetrator of cruel abuses of their people, the regime in Beijing is acting like the lord of Cai in the legend of Bian Que whose warnings about disaster was ignored by the ruthless and conceited ruler. By allowing injustices of many kinds to spread, the party-state is working to the serious detriment of a country, which has made many great contributions to world civilization in its history.
This month, the Chinese Parliament, National Congress of People’s Representatives, will meet in Beijing to discuss the country’s plans for what the Chinese President Hu Jintao calls a “harmonious society.”
Chinese leaders should realize the profound irony of its pursuit of “harmony” in face of its own violent offense against its own very narrow interpretation of human rights. They must be made to understand that social cohesion cannot be achieved until the party-state stops its violent repression of the Chinese people.
As an emerging economic power and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the government of China must stop the persecution and other abuses of its own people. Beijing should not be allowed to take its increased role in dealing with the current worldwide financial challenges as a free license to continued aggression on the Chinese people.
The Canadian government, particularly under your leadership, has been a strong supporter of human rights and rule of law in China. We urge you to continue to hold the Beijing regime to account for its continued violation of human rights and blatant disrespect for the rule of law. We call on your government to demand that Beijing release Gao Zhisheng immediately and provide proper medical treatment and other protection to him immediately.
Canadian Friends of Gao Zhisheng
"Dark Night, Dark Hood and Kidnapping by Dark Mafia"
(My account of more than 50 days of torture in 2007)
By GAO ZHISHENG
Written on November 28, 2007 at my besieged home in Beijing
Authorized to be released to international community on February 9, 2009
These words from me today will be finally revealed one day. It will expose its true face in today’s China. It will disclose the unimaginable heart and characteristics of the “ruling party” in China. Of course, these words will inevitably bring unpleasant and even upset embarrassed feelings to those global “good friends” and “nice partners” of today’s CCPIF these global “good friends” and “nice partners” still have some fear to the value of human conscience and morality in their hearts.
Today, the suddenly well off CCP has not only gained more and more global “good friends” and “nice partners” but also has made those perverted slogan such as “China is a country rule of law” lauder and lauder. Both will be disastrous to the progress and development of the human rights of the Chinese people.Around 8 p.m. on September 21, 2007 the authorities notified me orally that I should go for a mind reeducation (reform) talk. I found there were some unusual things happening at this time. The secret police, who used to follow me very closely, kept a further distance. I was walking down the street one day and when I turned a corner, about six or seven strangers started walking towards me. I suddenly felt a strong blow to the back of my neck and fell face down on the ground. Someone yanked my hair and a black hood was pulled over my head immediately.
During these more than 50 days, more horrible evils were committed than I told here. Those evils were not even worthy of any historical records by any human governments. But those records will further enable us to see clearly that how much further the leaders of CCP are willing go in its evil crime against humanity in order to protect its illegal monopoly power! Those evils are so dirty and disgusting, that I don’t want to mention it at this time and perhaps will never mention it in the future. Every time when I was tortured, I was always repeatedly threatened that, if I spelled out later what had happened to me, I would be tortured again, but I was told, “This time it will happen in front of your wife and children.” The tall strong man that pulled my hair repeated this over and over during the days I was tortured. “Your death is sure if you share this with the outside world.”
I was brought to a vehicle and was put in it. Although I couldn’t see, it seemed to me that it had two benches with a space in the middle. I was put in the space in the middle on the floor. My right cheek was on the ground. All of a sudden a boot was put on my face holding me down. Many hands started searching all over me. My belt was pulled off and then used to tie my hands behind my back. At least four people put their feet on me holding me down.
About 40 minutes later I was dragged out of the car. My pants were falling down around my knees and I was dragged into a room. No one had said anything at all to me until that time. The hood was pulled off of my head at this time. Immediately men began cursing and hitting me. “ **, your date of death has come today. Brothers, let’s give him a brutal lesson today. Beat him to death.”
Then, four men with electric shock prods began beating my head and all over my body. Nothing but the noise of the beating and my anxious breathing could be heard. I was beaten so severely that my whole body began uncontrollably shaking. “Don’t pretend to do that!” I was shouted at by a guy whom I later learned was named Wang. Then a very strong and tall (1.9 meters) man grabbed my hair and pulled me up off the ground. Then Wang began beating me on the face terribly. “**, you are not worthy to wear black clothes. Are you a Mafia leader? Pull off all of his clothes.”
All my clothes were pulled off and I was totally naked. Wang yelled again, and someone kicked me in the back of my legs, and I collapsed to the floor. The big guy continued to pull my hair and forced me to lift my head to see Wang. At this time, I could see that there were five people in the room. Four of the men were holding electric prods, and one was holding my belt. “You listen, Gao, today your uncles want nothing but to make your life worse than death. I tell you the truth, your matter is not only between you and the government. Look at the floor! There is not a single drop of water. After a while the water will be above your ankles. After a while you will learn where the water will come from.”
While Wang was saying this, the electric shock prods were put on my face and upper body shocking me. Wang then said, “Come on guys, deliver the second course!” Then, the electric shock baton was put all over me. And my full body, my heart, lungs and muscles began jumping under my skin uncontrollably. I was writhing on the ground in pain, trying to crawl away. Wang then shocked me in my genitals. My begging them to stop only returned laughing and more unbelievable torture. Wang then used the electric shock baton three more times on my genitals while shouting loudly. After a few hours of this I had no energy to even beg, let alone, try to escape. But my mind was still clear.
I felt my body was jerking very strongly when the baton touched me. I clearly felt some water sprinkled on my arms and legs as I was jerking. It was then I realized that this was sweat from me. I realized what Wang meant about the water.
It seems that the torturers themselves were also tired. Before the dawn came, three of them left the room. “We will come back later to give him the next course,” Wang said. The two left in the room, put a chair in the middle of the room and pulled me up and set me in the chair. One of them had five pieces of cigarettes in his mouth. One man stood behind me and the man with the cigarettes was in front. The man behind grabbed my hair and pulled my head forward and down. The other man used the cigarettes to fill my nose and eyes with smoke over and over. They did this with the utmost patience. After a while I didn’t have any feeling except for some tears dropping on my legs. This continued for about two hours.
Then some other guys came in replacing the previous two. My eyes could not see because they were now swollen shut. The new guys started talking, “Gao, are you still able to hear with your ears? I tell you the truth, these guys are experts in cracking down on Mafia guys. They are heavies. This time they are chosen specifically and carefully by the authority above for this purpose. Can you hear who I am? My last name is Jiang. I followed you to Xiajiang after you were released last year.”
“Are you the one from Penglai City, Shandong?” I asked.
“Yes, your memory is still good. I told you, you would come back sooner or later. When I saw you the way you behaved in Xiajiang, I knew you would be back. You even looked down upon our police. Shouldn’t we help you have a better lesson? You wrote that letter to American congressmen. Look at you, you traitor. What could you be given by your American lord? The American Congress counts for nothing. This is China. It is the Communist Party’s territory. To capture your life is as easy as stepping on an ant. If you dare to continue to write your stupid articles, the government has to make its attitude clear. Now, did you see that attitude tonight?” Jiang spoke slowly.
I asked, “How can you face the beating of Chinese and use Mafia tactics on Chinese taxpayers?”
“You are an object to be beaten. You know that in your heart better than most. Taxpayers count for nothing in China. Don’t talk about this term taxpayers.”
While he was saying this, someone else entered the room. I recognized the voice to be Wang’s. “Don’t talk to him with your mouth. Give him the real thing. Your uncles have prepared 12 courses. We only finished 3 last night. Your chief uncle doesn’t like to talk and so following you will see that you will have to eat your own S*** and drink your own piss. A toothpick will touch your light (sexual organs). Don’t you talk about torture by the Communist Party yet, because we will give you a comprehensive lesson now! You are correct, we torture Falun Gong. Everything is right. The 12 courses we’re going to give to you were practiced on the Falun Gong, to tell you the truth. I am not afraid of you if you continue to write. We can torture you to death without your body being found. You stinky outsider (meaning, not from Beijing)! What are you thinking even being here?”
In the following hours of torture I passed out several times, because of lack of water and food and heavy sweating. I was lying down on the cold floor naked. I felt several times someone come and open my eyes and shine a flashlight in them to see if I was still alive. When I would come to, I smelled the strong odor of stinky urine. My face, nose, and hair were filled with the smell. Obviously, but I don’t know when, someone urinated in my face and on my head.
This torture continued until around noon on the third day. I don’t know where I got the strength to endure, but somehow I struggled to get away from their grasp and began to beat my head on the table. I was shouting the names of my two children (Tiangyu and GeGe) and trying to kill myself. But my attempt did not succeed. I thank Almighty God for this. It is Him who rescued me. I truly felt God drag me back from that state and give me my life. My eyes were full of bleeding, though because of my head banging. I fell on the ground. Immediately, three people sat on my body. One was on my face. They were laughing. They said I used my death to try to scare them. They said they have just seen this too many times. They then continued the torture again until that night. I could not see anything with my eyes anymore. I could still hear my torturers though, and again they gathered after they had dinner.
One of them came and pulled my hair dragging me up. “Gao, are you hungry? Tell us the truth?”
I said, “I am very hungry.”
“Do you want to eat? Tell us the truth?”
I said, “I want to eat.” My face instead was slapped repeatedly, a dozen times or more, and I again collapsed to the ground. A boot stomped on my chest and I was shocked with the baton on my chin. I screamed. Then the baton was put into my mouth.
“Let’s see how different your mouth is from others. Don’t you want to eat? You said you are hungry. Are you worthy?” The baton was in my mouth but was not turned on. I didn’t know what they wanted to do.
Wang said, “Gao, do you know why we didn’t destroy your mouth? Tonight your uncles want you to talk the whole night. We want you to talk about nothing, but about how you are a womanizer. You are not allowed to say you are not one. You are not allowed to say there are just a few women, either. Don’t forget any details. You can’t leave any details out. Your uncles like this. We have slept and eaten enough, it’s your time to talk.”
“Why didn’t he talk? Beat him up brothers?” Wang shouted. Three batons began shocking me. I was crawling all over trying to get away still naked. After more than 10 minutes, I was shaking uncontrollably again.
I begged them. “I didn’t have an affair. It’s not that I don’t want to tell you.” I heard my voice was quivering.
“Are you becoming a fool? Let’s use the baton to light you and see if you start talking.” Then two people stretched out my arms and pinned them to the ground. They used toothpicks to pierce my genitals. I can’t use any language to describe the helplessness, pain, and despair that I felt then. At a point like that, language and emotion do not have the power to explain. Finally I made up stories, telling them about affairs that I had with four women. After more repeated torture, I had to describe how I had sex with each of these women. This continued until dawn the next day.
At that time, I was dragged to where I had to sign the transcript of my confession about my affairs. “If we send this out, you will become stinky dog’ s *** in half a year.” Wang said loudly. (After I was released, I learned that the day after the torture the interrogator named Sun Huo informed my wife about “the truth” they learned about my affairs. My wife told them it was none of their business; she said, “I still trust Gao.”)
After this torture for days, I often lost consciousness and was unable to determine the passage of time. I don’t know how long had passed. A group of them were preparing to torture me again. Another guy came in though and rebuked them. I could hear it was a deputy director from the Beijing PSB. I had seen him many times before. I thought him to be a good person. I could not see him though, because my eyes were still swollen. My whole body was beaten and unrecognizable. He sounded angry because of my condition. He found a doctor to attend to me. He said he was appalled and surprised. He said, “This torture doesn’t represent the Communist Party!”
I asked him, “Who directed this?”
He didn’t reply. I asked to be sent back home or even just back to prison. He didn’t reply. He brought my torturers back into the room and rebuked them. He ordered them to buy clothes for me and give me a blanket and food. He told me he would try his best to either get me back to prison or back home.
As soon as the deputy left, Wang began cursing me. “Gao, you even dream to go to prison? No, that is too easy. You won’t have any chance to do that as long as the CCP is still in power. Don’t even think about that.”
That same night, I was transported to another location but I didn’t know where, since I had a black hood over my head again. I was continuously tortured there again for another 10 days. Then one day, they put the hood on me again, and I was put into a vehicle. My head was forced in between my legs and I had to remain that way for more than an hour. The suffering was more than I could stand, and I wanted to die.
After another hour at a new location, the hood was removed. Four of the previous five torturers were not there. But, I saw the same group of secret police who used to follow me.
From then on the physical torture stopped, but emotional torture continued. I was told the 17th Communist Party Congress was starting and that I had to wait for the higher authorities’ opinions about my case.
During that time some officials came to visit my cell. Their attitude was softer, and I was also allowed to wash my face and brush my teeth. Some officials proposed to me to use my writing skills to curse Falun Gong instead, and that I could charge whatever I wanted for doing that.
I said it is not a technical problem but an ethical problem. “So,” they proposed, “if that is too hard, then write articles praising the government, and again charge whatever you want.” Finally they proposed, “If you write what we direct and that you were treated well after prison and that you were fooled by Falun Gong and Hu Jia, things will go well. Otherwise, how can you find an end to your suffering? Think of your wife and children.”
In exchange, I did write an article that said the government treated my family well. I wrote the open letter to the U.S. Congress and gave the reason that I was fooled by Falun Gong and Hu Jia.
Before I was released to go home, though, I was brought to Xian city. I was brought to call Geng He (my wife). On the date of the midautumn festival, the authorities asked me to call my wife and comfort her since she was holding a protest and trying to commit suicide over the government’s treatment of our family. The content of the call was all designed by the authorities. (Later I learned that my wife’s response was also choreographed.) I could still not open one of my eyes at that time and since the call was being taped, I was told to explain that it was from myselfinflicted wound.
In the middle of November 2007, after I got home, I learned that my house was thoroughly searched again without a single document or search warrant. During those more than 50 days of torture, I had many strange feelings. For example, sometimes I could hear “death” and sometimes could hear “life.”
After the 12th and 13th day of my kidnapping, and when I could again partially open my eyes, I saw my body was in a horrifying condition. Not a single square centimeter of my skin was normal. It was bruised and damaged over every part.
Every day while I was being held, the experience of “eating” was unusual. Whenever I was at the point of starving, they would bring up “mantle” (steamed bread) and offer it to me. If I would sing one of the three famous revolutionary Communist party songs I could have some bread. My deepest desire was that I wanted to live until that was no longer possible. My death would be torturous for my wife and children, but at the same time I didn’t want to dirty my soul. But, in that environment human dignity has no strength. If you don’t sing these songs you will continue to be starved, and they will continue to torture you, so I sang.
When they used the same tactic though, pressuring me to write articles attacking Falun Gong, I didn’t do it. But, I did compromise by writing my statement saying the government didn’t kidnap and torture me and that they treated my family well. I did sign that document.
This was repeated many times. These brutal, violent acts are not right. Those that did it, themselves, knew this clearly in their hearts.
Finally, I want to say a few words which won’t be liked by some folks. I want to remind those socalled global “good friends”, “good partners” called by the CCP that the increasing degree of brutality and coldness against the Chinese people by the CCP is the direct result of appeasement by both you and us (our own Chinese people).
Written on November 28, 2007 at my besieged home in Beijing