Updated at 9:58 a.m., CDT
(Xinjiang—August 7, 2014) Well-known human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng was released from prison in China’s far west Xinjiang Uyghur Automonous Region into controlled freedom at 9:15 a.m. Bejiing time today.
At this time, Gao is with his brother, Gao Zhiyi, traveling to his father-in-law’s house. According to a China Human Rights Defenders’ (CHRD) report, Gao is being accompanied by Chinese security agents in addition to having limited phone privileges. Geng He told the Associated Press that she spoke with Gao late Thursday evening Beijing time, but that she could tell security officers were present as she heard unfamiliar voices in the background.
Rights activits Hu Jia told CHRD that, based on information from a phone call with Gao’s brother, Gao’s teeth are in poor condition and that he will seek medical treatment in Urumqi, the region’s capital, before returning home to China’s inland Shaanxi province.
“We are glad to hear Gao Zhisheng was finally released from prison after serving three full years of harsh, arbitrary imprisonment for his human rights and religious freedom defense work,” said Bob Fu, founder and president of China Aid, who, as a friend of Gao’s, has campaigned for his release for several years throughout Gao’s disappearances and torture.
“The fact that Gao was forbidden to even talk to his wife and children at the time of his release shows that Gao is still far away from true freedom. We urge the Chinese government to restore Gao’s full rights and freedom as a Chinese citizen by allowing him free access to communicate and meet with his family and friends and to facilitate the process for a family reunion in the United States.”
Gao was sentenced to a three-year prison term and one-year deprivation of political rights and released on probation for five years for “inciting subversion of state power” on Dec. 22, 2006.
On Sept. 21, 2007, however, Gao was taken into official custody again. When he was released 50 days later, he wrote “Dark Night, Dark Hood and Kidnapping by Dark Mafia” (http://www.chinaaid.org/2011/07/night-dark-hood-and-kidnapping-by-dark.html), in which he recounted how he had been tortured, including having toothpicks inserted into his genitals.
Gao’s wife, daughter and son fled from Beijing to the United States on Jan. 9, 2009, and less than a month later, on Feb. 4, Gao disappeared into official custody once more. More than a year later, on March 27, 2010 Gao suddenly re-appeared, though still under the surveillance of Domestic Security Protection agents. On April 20, he disappeared into police custody again.
(A previous version stated that Gao was released into full freedom and that he was being denied phone privileges. While Gao’s phone privileges are being limited, he was able to speak to his wife late Thursday.)