Prominent human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng has reportedly been kidnapped and subjected to inhumane treatment by agents of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Advocates, including Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), ChinaAid’s Pastor Bob Fu, and former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Andrew Bremberg, are urging the U.S. government to take action and determine Gao’s status.
Gao, an award-winning Chinese attorney, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee has defended religious minorities in China for years. However, his efforts have been met with severe retaliation from the CCP. After advocating for the practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice deemed an “unlawful organization” by the CCP, Gao experienced a series of legal consequences, including the forced closure of his law firm in 2005 and a three-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion of state power” in 2006.
America needs to hold China accountable https://t.co/ee5E9cPQSV
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) April 1, 2023
Despite continued advocacy efforts, Gao’s whereabouts remain unknown. His advocates claim the U.S. government has yet to raise his case in meetings with China. Pastor Fu notes that no single “prisoner of conscience’s name” has been mentioned in bilateral summits between the U.S. and China and that Joe Biden has not publicly or privately mentioned Gao’s name.
Human rights NGO Safeguard Defenders further highlights the widespread use of enforced disappearances in China. Gao Zhisheng’s case is only the tip of the iceberg, as many other activists and lawyers face a similar fate. The UN Working Group on enforced disappearance has raised concerns since 2011 regarding China’s use of enforced disappearances against those involved in the country’s human rights movement. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres acknowledged that enforced disappearance is a “method of repression, terror, and stifling dissent.”
Enforced disappearances are strictly prohibited under international law. They may constitute a crime against humanity when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population.
Despite the international outcry, the Chinese government has not ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Additionally, the government has ignored requests for over nine years by the UN’s Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances to visit the country, including its most recent appeal in January 2022.
As advocates urge the U.S. government to take a stance and confront China regarding Gao Zhisheng’s case, it is essential to recognize the broader issue of enforced disappearances in China. The international community must continue to pressure the Chinese government to respect human rights and adhere to international law, ensuring that those who suffer enforced disappearances receive justice and that their families are provided with the truth they deserve.