American Board of Trial Advocates Presents Courageous Advocacy Award
American Board of Trial Advocates
Presents Courageous Advocacy Award to
Chinese Human Rights Activist Gao Zhisheng
June 30, 2007
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (June 30, 2007) — The American Board of Trial Advocates, a national organization of preeminent trial lawyers, will present its third Courageous Advocacy Award tonight to Chinese human rights activist Gao Zhisheng.
The American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) is a national association of more than 6,300 experienced judges and trial lawyers. ABOTA bestows the award periodically to a judge or advocate anywhere in the world who has demonstrated courage in the performance of duty and a strict adherence to the rule of law, even at great risk to personal freedom and safety.
The recipient will not be present to accept the award. Gao Zhisheng and members of his family are under house arrest in Beijing, China. This champion of human rights has not been allowed to practice law since 2005, and dozens of plainclothes state police officers follow him and members of his family wherever they go.
Gao is one of a small number of lawyers willing to handle high-profile human rights cases involving rural land rights, labor activists and religious freedom. He has championed the cause of thousands of Chinese citizens forcibly relocated for the construction of a massive dam and reservoir, as well as the families of miners killed in a 2004 coal mine explosion.
In the last few years, cases of Falun Gong practitioners – who are persecuted for attempting to bring uncensored information to China through the Internet – started to mount on his desk. But lawyers are not allowed to defend Falun Gong cases in China. After repeated legal efforts went nowhere, Gao directly appealed to his country’s top leaders – Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao – in open letters.
These courageous attempts to gain redress from Chinese government officials and the courts led to the loss of his practice and current house arrest. As the Editor-in-Chief of Chinascope magazine, Zongi Hu, stated in the February 2006 issue, “…this ordinary citizen is reaching far more people than the Chinese communist government ever expected, or even more than the regime can reach itself.”
Gao remains unafraid of consequences: “I am a warrior who does not care whether he lives or dies. Such sacrifice will be nothing to me if it speeds the death of this dictatorship.”
A statement released by the Global Association for Supporting Gao Zhisheng, an alliance of more than 119 organizations, captured the essence of his contribution: “Attorney Gao has given his all in the Chinese non-violent [rights protection] movement. He is the symbol for human rights in China, and he represents the Chinese conscience.”
Accepting the Courageous Advocacy Award for Gao Zhisheng will be Sherry Zhang, of the Sound of Hope Radio Network. The Sound of Hope Radio Network is a news and entertainment broadcast service offering a unique perspective on Asian culture and its people.
“We are all hopeful that Gao’s courage in standing up to the communist regime will bring about positive change for the Chinese people in the area of human rights,” said Lewis R. Sifford of Dallas, National ABOTA President. “We hope that the constitutional rights we enjoy here in America, such as freedom of speech and religion, will spread throughout China and provide a better quality of life for all people in that nation.
“A lawyer like Gao and other brave human rights attorneys can certainly give the Chinese people the incentive to push for equality and freedom in many aspects of their lives. Without lawyers like Gao, these needed changes are unlikely to occur,” Sifford continued.
Gao Zhisheng also has been nominated for the 2007 Nobel Prize for Peace for his fearless support of human rights in China. The nomination was jointly made by two highly respected Canadian lawyers, David Matas and David Kilgour.
David Matas is Senior Legal Counsel to B’nai Brith Canada. Matas has been actively involved in human rights issues and has received many awards and honors from Jewish organizations, the legal community and a wide variety of other groups. He is an accomplished author, having published several books and manuscripts. His most recent, Bloody Words: Hate and Free Speech, was published in 2000.
David Kilgour is one of the three longest-serving MPs in the Canadian House of Commons.
He has represented Canada abroad on numerous occasions, most recently as a member of the Canadian delegation to Rwanda in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the genocide in that nation.
ABOTA has presented the Courageous Advocacy Award on two other occasions. It was presented in 1999 at the ABOTA International Meeting in Florence, Italy, as a collective award to 24 lawyers and judges who gave their lives in the pursuit of justice under the law.
A second Courageous Advocacy Award was given at the ABOTA International Meeting in 2003 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in memory of 13 judges, barristers and solicitors who were maimed or murdered while showing extraordinary courage and unwavering commitment to the rule of law during the political and social unrest in that country.
Founded in 1958, ABOTA is a national association of experienced trial lawyers and judges. ABOTA and its members are dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the civil jury trial right provided by the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Foundation of ABOTA is an affiliated charitable entity, the mission of which is to support the purposes of ABOTA through education and research. ABOTA membership consists of more than 6,300 lawyers and judges spread among 93 Chapters in all 50 States and the District of Columbia. ABOTA publishes Voir Dire magazine, which features in-depth articles on current and historical issues related to constitutional rights, in particular the Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury.
For more information contact: Brian Tyson at (800)932-2682 firstname.lastname@example.org