Gao Zhisheng's family first prison visit since March 2012
The younger brother and father-in-law of Chinese Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng were allowed to visit him at Shaya Prison in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on Jan. 12, reports Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service.
According to a news release by human rights organization Christian Solidarity worldwide (CSW), it was the first family visit he had received since March 2012.
After the visit, CSW said Human Rights in China reported that Gao's mind seemed “clear,” and he spoke normally.
CSW said that Gao Zhisheng, a prominent Beijing human rights lawyer who has defended house church Christians, was first detained in 2009. Following international pressure Gao reappeared in March 2010. He told the Associated Press he had been severely tortured whilst in prison.
He disappeared again in April 2010 and nothing was known of his whereabouts until Dec. 16 2011, when the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that Gao had violated the terms of his probation and had been returned to prison for three years. Gao's brother Gao Zhiyi has repeatedly requested permission to visit him in prison.
CSW said this month's visit is important confirmation that Gao is still alive. In Aug. 2012, two human rights defense lawyers who traveled from Beijing to meet with Gao were told that he did not want to see any family or lawyers.
Then in Nov 2012, CSW reported, on the eve of the 18th National Party Congress, Gao's family received a letter purporting to be from Gao himself instructing them not to visit him. His brother thought the letter was strange and became worried for Gao's safety.
Andrew Johnston, advocacy director at CSW, said in the news release, “CSW is very pleased that two members Gao Zhisheng's family have been allowed to visit him in prison. However, we remain concerned about the lack of information about Gao's well-being and the schedule for his release.”
He added, “We urge the Chinese authorities to allow Gao's family and legal representatives access to him in prison and to ensure that he is treated in line with the standards set out in the UN's Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.”