China: Writer and lawyer Gao Zhisheng detained

English PEN is seriously concerned for the well-being of writer and human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng.

According to PEN’s information, Gao Zhisheng was arrested on 22 September 2007 and is currently being held incommunicado. PEN fears that he may be held for his dissident writings and activities, and calls upon the Chinese authorities to provide information about his whereabouts, and assurances of his wellbeing. PEN is concerned that Gao Zhisheng may be detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory, and if so calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Gao Zhisheng was reportedly taken into custody from his home in Beijing by state security officers on 22 September 2007. The Chinese authorities have not officially acknowledged his detention and his family has not been informed of his location. Gao Zhisheng’s arrest follows the publication, on 12 September 2007, of an open letter to the United States Congress in which he criticised China’s human rights record and its hosting of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. His house was reportedly searched on 16 September 2007 by police officers from the National Security Unit of the Beijing Public Security Bureau.

Gao Zhisheng is a leading dissident lawyer and writer, and is known for his writings on social justice, democracy and the suppression of the religious movement Falun Gong. In 2005 his law firm was shut down by the Chinese authorities, and he was placed under heavy surveillance.

Gao Zhisheng was previously arrested by Beijing police on 15 August 2006 when visiting his sister in Dongying City, Shandong province. On 21 September 2006, he was formally charged with ‘suspicion of inciting subversion of state power’ for his critical writings. He was sentenced on 22 December 2006 to 3 years in prison, suspended for five years, and 1 years’ deprivation of political rights. According to an official statement, Gao Zhisheng was accused of posting nine ‘seditious articles’ and conducting ten interviews with overseas media, which ‘defamed’ China’s central government and amounted to agitation aimed at overthrowing the state. The statement claimed the court had showed leniency by handing down a suspended sentence as Gao Zhisheng had ‘voluntarily reported other people’s offences and provided important clues to crack other cases’. He was held in Beijing until his release on 22 December 2006.

In September 2007 Gao Zhisheng published a book about his experiences entitled A China More Just (Broad Press USA, 2007).

Please send appeals:
– Expressing serious concerns at the arrest of writer and human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, and seeking immediate information about his whereabouts and safety;
– Urging the authorities to respect Gao Zhisheng’s basic rights whilst detained and to grant him full access to his family, lawyer and any necessary medical care;
– Protesting the detention of Gao Zhisheng, and calling for his immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China became a signatory in 1998.

Government addresses:


His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
Procurator General Mr. Jia Chunwang
Supreme People’s Procuratorate
Beiheyan Street 147
100726 Beijing
Please note that fax numbers are no longer available for the Chinese authorities, so it may be more effective to forward appeals via the Chinese representative in London:
Her Excellency Mrs. Fu Ying
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
49-51 Portland Place
London W1B 4JL

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