Geng He: “Speaking for myself, the last time I was in contact with him was April 15 or 16, because of the time difference with China. We were planning to celebrate our daughter Gege’s birthday on April 17 and we began looking for her father. We couldn’t find him and we couldn’t get through on his number. And that’s how it’s been ever since. His eldest brother told me on the phone that Domestic Security Protection told him they’ve ‘lost him,’ so his eldest brother has written a ‘missing person’ ad. He wants me to post it on the Internet. I have it here.”
Geng He: “Let me read it for you: ‘Missing Person: Gao Zhisheng, 49, male, Han ethnicity, 1.80 meters tall, Beijing resident. In the second month of 2010 of the lunar calendar, he went to his hometown for the Qingming Festival to visit his mother’s grave. On the way, he was accompanied by several plainclothes police. Afterwards, he returned to Beijing. About 10 days later, we talked on the phone. To date, it’s been more than a year. There hasn’t been a scrap of news. The whole family is extremely worried.
Gao Zhiyi: “It’s been more than a year with no news of him. I asked them several times and they told me they didn’t know anything. I wrote it out of desperation.”
Gao Zhiyi: “In the ninth month of the lunar calendar last year, I went to the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau’s Petition Office. They told me they didn’t know anything. I called Section Chief Sun several times and he told me they had lost him. I said: ‘How could you have possibly lost him when he was in your custody?’ He said: ‘Even if your brother was with me, he can still be lost while in their custody.’ At the Qingming Festival last year, he came back home. It’s now been more than a year with no news of him whatsoever. They are closemouthed about this. When I called him again, he wouldn’t take my calls.”
Gao Zhiyi: “He stayed only for two or three days. What could he do? He was being followed.”
Gao Zhiyi: “One came into the house. Four vehicles came from Yulin. After that, there was no news of him whatsoever.”
Gao Zhiyi: “Yes, [he was allowed to stay at home]. Judging from his condition at the time, he must have suffered injuries in prison. He was tortured like that. He was coughing, they must have hurt him somehow in his lungs. His coughing was not normal coughing. I’m almost 60 years old, I can sense it.”
Gao Zhiyi: “It was either two nights or three nights. Qingming Festival is the traditional day for people to offer sacrifices to the ancestors. Our big family of 20 to 30 people went together to the grave.”
Gao Zhiyi: “After he left, that is to say, about a week to 10 days later. He called us once from Beijing. After that, nothing.”
Gao Zhiyi: “Yes, after he came back, I contacted Section Chief Sun and that’s what he said.”
Gao Zhiyi: “Last year, in the ninth month of the lunar calendar, I went to Beijing and went to the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau’s Petition Office. I don’t know if they were officers or soldiers, in any case, they were the ones on duty. They said they didn’t know anything, that there was nothing they could do. They said his case was a special case and they couldn’t talk to me. So, I had no choice but to come back [home]. I am the only one in the family who has gone looking for him. No one else has.
Gao Zhiyi: “Yes, that is what I mean.”
Gao Zhiyi: “How do you think I feel? Even if he were sentenced to life in prison, the family should have the right to visit him in the prison and should know how he is doing. And probation is supposed to be served at home. Yet, they won’t give us any scrap of information about him. And what can you do?”
Gao Zhiyi: “I have disconnected my landline phone. It had stopped working altogether. All we were doing was paying for something that we couldn’t use. We had no other choice. I keep my cell phone on 24 hours a day. If things go wrong, my cell phone might end up like my landline phone (non-functional). Under normal circumstances, this sort of thing wouldn’t happen. What can we ordinary citizens do?”
Gao Zhiyi: “When I’m working, I work very hard. It’s only at night when I lie down to sleep … whenever it is quiet, then my mind is full of thoughts of him.
Gao Zhiyi: “My initial plan is go to Beijing. But in any case, I can’t make a final decision right now. I’ve taken everything into consideration. I think I will contact them a few days beforehand and see if they can give me an explanation.”
During my interview with Ms. Geng He, I asked if Lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s older sister had tried to look for Gao Zhisheng.
Gao’s sister: “No. We haven’t had any news of him whatsoever.”
Gao’s sister: “We greeted each other, then didn’t say much.”
Gao’s sister: “He said he went to Xinjiang to his father-in-law’s, and then there was no news at all. He did go to Xinjiang and he never phoned us again. Later I called his father-in-law and his father-in-law said he was tailed when he was in Xinjiang, he said there were three people, probably from Beijing. In Xinjiang, he didn’t stay at his father-in-law’s, he stayed at a guest house.”
Gao’s sister: “Ai-yah, what am I feeling…. When a loved one is missing, of course a person is going to feel bad and be worried. But what’s the use of worrying? There’s nothing I can do. Now that the time (for the end of the probation period) has come, they should release him. No matter what, they should let us visit him in person. Now we can’t even visit him. When you ask them, it’s clear Gao Zhisheng is in their custody, but they say they don’t know. We think my younger brother must be in the hands of the government. He is a human being, and it’s been so long. As family members, there’s nothing we can do but worry and hope to get some news as soon as possible. Even if the authorities have done something serious to him, they should let us know.”
Gao’s sister: “It seems not this year. Last year, whenever there was a holiday, they called me to see if I was at home. They were afraid I might have gone out looking for my brother.”
Geng He said: “According to the Chinese Communists’ own law, August 14 is the date when Gao Zhisheng will have finished serving his sentence and that is the date when he should finally come home. The entire family is waiting for this day. Everyone who has been following this case and been concerned about Gao Zhisheng is fixed on this day. The ‘missing person’ ad written by his eldest brother expresses the family’s hopes, because the family has run out of any other options. Oh, the bitterness in looking for him! There’s nothing we can do. Ordinary people can only express their feelings in this way.
Geng He: “My father is almost 80 now. Near my house is Hongguang Mountain. Every morning when he gets up, my father goes to Hongguang Mountain to burn incense and kowtow, praying for Gao Zhisheng’s safety. That’s the only way he can feel at peace for the day. I can’t get through to the Xinjiang phone numbers using Internet phone. Using a phone card (which doesn’t show the caller’s number), I can sometimes get through. My mother is a little muddle-headed now so I don’t call very often.”
Geng He: “The children and I are fine now. The date is drawing nearer and nearer. I want this day to come soon. My son often asks me…. On Father’s Day, my son said to me ‘Mom, it’s Father’s Day today and I want to call my dad.’ That was when there was flooding in Beijing. I said: ‘You see. There’s flooding everywhere in Beijing and you can’t get in touch with your dad.’ He said: ‘Okay. Then, can I call dad on my birthday?’ My son’s birthday is August 27. I said: ‘Okay, I don’t think there should be any problems.’ [Our daughter] Gege is doing okay in school now. She’s gotten used to everything. With regard to Gao Zhisheng’s ordeal of these past several years, he has ‘been disappeared’ no less than six times and each time he was tortured.
Geng He said this is her greatest wish right now: “One month from now is our son Tianyu’s 8th birthday. I really want to hear Gao Zhisheng wish his child a happy birthday, and I really want to hear his humorous and confident voice, because that would be a comfort to me and Gege. Right now, everyone in the family, my parents and all the family members are all waiting for that day.
Ms. Geng He, who hopes Lawyer Gao Zhisheng can come back soon to be reunited with his family, recalled Lawyer Gao’s experiences of recent years ---
Geng He: “The pressure started in 2004. He took on the Cai Zhuohua case [in which the Christian Cai Zhuohua was sentenced to three years labor camp for warehousing tens of thousands of Chinese Bibles and books]. After that, it was the northern Shaanxi oil fields case; he spent more than a month investigating that. At the time, I was on duty at the office (Geng He was employed at the law office). The Justice Bureau kept calling and calling and asking, ‘When will Gao Zhisheng come back? When he comes back, he has to come to the Justice Bureau.’
Geng He: “In August and September of 2005. People from the Justice Bureau kept coming to our law firm, doing inspections. At the time, Gao Zhisheng was in that oil field in northern Shaanxi. In September, they suspended our business for rectification. Later, they issued a formal ‘Business Suspended for Rectification’ notice.
Geng He: “In 2005, when the Justice Bureau issued the order suspending our business for rectification, I immediately wrote statements for all our lawyers saying they were free to leave our law office and that they were in no way connected with the law office financially. This way, they could go work in other law offices. If I had been a little slower in these actions, and if the Justice Bureau had taken away our company chop and financial chop, they would not have been able to leave.
Geng He: “Talking about this, I feel so sad… Every time one of Gao Zhisheng’s cases went to trial, he would tell me what kind of defense he gave, how he brought his skills into full play. He was always talking like this, so I would joke with him, saying: ‘Okay, since I was not there, you are free to brag any way you like.’ After that, he stopped telling me. Then it was from his assistant that I heard about the spectacular defenses Gao Zhisheng gave in every case. So I said to him: ‘Gao Zhisheng, I’d like to go to the court with you once.’ Gao Zhisheng said: ‘No problem. I’ll bring you to court with me for the next trial.’ I thought that since that was his profession, there was a lot of time, so I didn’t bring it up. I thought I had plenty of opportunities.
Ms. Geng He continued to recall some of the things that happened later: “Following the sentencing, he came back home in late December 2006. As soon as he entered the house, Gao Zhisheng said: ‘The entire family must leave Beijing.’ ‘Why?’ I asked. My understanding was that the authorities were afraid people might come to our house and if too many people came, that would be too much pressure on them. The next day, he said that if the entire family left Beijing together, it would attract too much attention. So he would leave first. Then, he left. That was in late December. He went back to Shandong and wandered all over the place, and they followed him the whole time.
Geng He: “It’s just that I feel I can share in his sufferings. I’m willing to share in his sufferings. The torture he suffered, it’s as though it was inflicted on me, too. I feel that Gao Zhisheng and I have shared a life together for so long, he and I are as one. Whatever he feels over there, I also feel it here. So his suffering, the torture inflicted on him, it’s like it is happening to me. I’m willing, so long as we can be together and I can share in his sufferings. I really hope it can be this way.”