Tuesday, February 2, 2010 (2:16 pm)
By Worthy News Asia Service
BEIJING, CHINA (Worthy News)– A Chinese Christian human rights lawyer was missing for 363 days Tuesday, February 2, but an advocacy group said it now believes he is still alive.
Well-informed China Aid Association (CAA) told Worthy News and its news partner BosNewsLife that based on official statements and "other inside reports" it has come to the conclusion that "Gao Zhisheng is still alive, but suffering incredible torture" in Chinese detention, at an unknown location.
CAA's revelations come just weeks after China's Foreign Ministry for the first time acknowledged Gao's case.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu indicated that Gao was in custody, after he was asked whether he knew where Gao was. "The relevant judicial authorities have decided this case, and we should say this person, according to Chinese law, is where he should be," Ma said last month.
Gao's brother said recently that the Beijing police officer who took the rights lawyer away in February 2009 told him he "went missing" in September, leading to fears for the lawyer's safety.
Gao's wife and children have since escaped to the United States where his daughter has been hospitalized due to the stress of her father’s disappearance amid fears he had died, CAA told Worthy News earlier.
His disappearance has been linked to his activities.
Gao, seen as one of China's most daring lawyers, was known for his legal battles for those reportedly persecuted for their faith, including Christians. He also took on other highly sensitive cases involving the banned Falun Gong spiritual group and eventually advocating constitutional reform.
When he disappeared last year, it was presumed police had taken him into custody, but it has never been clear what happened to him after that.
A lawyer for Gao, Li Fangping, described the Foreign Ministry's lastest comments as "extremely insincere" and said they are "an indication of China's human rights situation."
Gao has long faced pressure from authorities. He was arrested in August 2006, convicted at a one-day trial and placed under house arrest. He was accused of subversion on the basis of nine articles posted on foreign Web sites, state media reported at the time.
Gao did not appeal that conviction, Li told reporters.
CAA said that it would mark on Thursday, February 4, the first anniversary of Gao Zhisheng's disappearance with a one-day, 24-hour targeted advertising campaign on the Internet to spread news about the lawyer. "These banner ads will be animated, linking to a Webpage sharing Gao's story, and directing the viewer to www.FreeGao.com, to sign the petition" for his release, CAA added. (With reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos).