Missing dissident back in prison

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 December, 2011, 12:00am


Gao Zhisheng, a dissident lawyer whose 20-month disappearance drew international condemnation, has been sent back to prison by a Beijing court, state media reported.

Gao (pictured), 47, was given a suspended three-year sentence with five years' probation in December 2006 for 'inciting subversion of state power' - a charge his supporters say was trumped up to punish him for his criticism of the government.

'He had seriously violated probation rules a number of times, which led to the court decision to withdraw the probation,' Xinhua last night quoted a statement from the court as saying. 'He will serve his term in prison over the next three years.'

Gao's ordeal began when he openly condemned the government for persecuting Falun Gong members and underground Christians. His lawyer's licence was revoked in 2005 and he said he was detained and tortured by police many times.

His wife, Geng He , and their children fled China in January 2009 and sought asylum in the US. A month later, Gao disappeared. He re-emerged in March last year but disappeared again a few weeks later.

Last night, Gao Zhisheng's brother, Gao Zhiyi, said he was outraged that the authorities had not informed him about the court decision.

'Before, they said he had gone missing. Now, they say he has been sent to prison. How am I supposed to react? We still don't know where he is.

'Until I see him, my mind will not be at rest.'

Professor Eva Pils, an expert on mainland legal issues at Chinese University, questioned how Gao Zhisheng could have violated conditions of his sentence when he had been under the authorities' control ever since he was sentenced.

Amnesty International said: 'The authorities' belated attempt to cast a veneer of legality over their treatment of Gao Zhisheng is truly shameful.'