"constructive engagement" has two words and has two distinct meanings. The
first is that there must be engagement. The second is that the engagement
must be constructive. For the visit of US President George to China for
the Olympic Games to be constructive, he must engage Chinese President Hu Jintao
on the case of Gao Zhisheng.
In 2001 China's
Ministry of Justice had rated Gao as one of China's top ten lawyers. He
had advocated on behalf of a long list of clients in difficult situations - for
instance, coal miners suing their employers and a client demanding compensation
for his home confiscated in preparation for the 2008 Olympics.
Gao wrote three
open letters protesting the persecution of the Falun Gong written in December
2004, October 2005, and December 2005. Following the second letter, the Beijing
Bureau of Municipal Justice suspended the operation of his office for one
year. In December 2005, his licence to practice was revoked.
The response of
Gao to this behaviour was to resign publicly from the Communist Party and to
write his third letter. Following the third letter, he received calls from
the police. The police told him that he had crossed the line and put
himself in a difficult position. The police said that he, his wife and
children were all under investigation. Starting in December 2005, he and
his family were put under constant police surveillance.
arrested him in January 2006 for filming the police after he noticed them
filming him. This time the police threatened to kill him. A few days
later, also in January, a car with covered licence plates followed by a military
vehicle also with covered licence plates attempted to run him over.
Gao responded by
organizing a relay hunger strike. Lawyers and rights activists fasted in
turn for one or two days to protest state persecution. In response
the state arrested his office staff. Gao had kept his office open despite
his disbarment; but from mid February 2006 he had to continue his work without
After the first
reports surfaced of organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in March 2006,
Gao wrote about
the practice. The allegations were that Falun Gong were killed for their
organs and their bodies cremated, that their organs were used for transplants to
customers from around the world paying huge sums. Gao expressed his
willingness to join the Coalition to Investigate Persecution against the Falun
in May 2006 asked David Kilgour and me, as independent experts, to investigate
and write a report on the allegations into organ harvesting. David Kilgour
is a former member of the Canadian government, a former Minister for Asia and
David Kilgour and me over to China to carry on our research. In his
invitation letter, he wrote:
"As all my [land] telephones and networks have been cut off, I can only
communicate [by cell phone] through reporters and the media." |
And that is
indeed how we got our invitation letter, through the media. Gao phoned in
our invitation to a reporter. The reporter in turn phoned one of our
interpreters to pass on the invitation. The reporter then filed the
invitation with her newspaper, the Epoch Times, which printed it in their issue
of June 11, 2006.
thereafter, on August 15, Gao was arrested, tortured, prosecuted for inciting
subversion, convicted on December 12, and sentenced on December 22, 2006 to
three years suspended for five years. Though the jail sentence was
suspended, he went into house arrest.
On September 13,
2007, while in house arrest, Gao wrote an open letter to the US Congress asking
the Congress to express its concerns about Chinese human rights in the lead up
to the Beijing Olympics. On September 22, 2007, he was driven away
from his home by ten plainclothes policemen and disappeared into state
hands. He remains disappeared to this date.
and I have nominated Gao for the Nobel Peace Prize. The American Board of
Trial Advocates Directors Meeting June 30,2007, Santa Barbara, California
presented the Courageous Advocacy Award to Gao Zhisheng. Gao was
only the third recipient of this award in fifty years and the first sole
recipient. When President Bush meets with President Hu Jintao, he must
raise the case of Gao Zhisheng.
David Matas is
an international human rights lawyer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.