The Australian: Chinese dissident lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s family defects to US

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25181062-2703,00.html

THE family of Chinese rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has been tipped for a Nobel
Peace Prize and disappeared weeks ago, has defected to the US.

The wife and two children of Gao – who said he was tortured after drawing international
attention to China’s rights abuses – sneaked out by foot into Thailand and arrived
in the US on Wednesday, rights groups said.

“It was extraordinarily difficult to get us out of China. The friends
who helped us escape took enormous pains, some even risking their own lives,”
Gao’s wife, Geng He, told Radio Free Asia’s Mandarin service.

The defection came during a visit to Washington by Chinese Foreign Minister
Yang Jiechi, who has warned President Barack Obama’s administration to “stop
meddling” in Beijing’s affairs over human rights.

Gao, once a prominent lawyer and Communist Party member, has been an outspoken
defender of people seeking redress from the Government including coal miners,
underground Christians and the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.

After he wrote an open letter to the US Congress in 2007, Gao said he was subjected
to several weeks of torture including suffering electric shocks to his genitals
and having his eyes burned by cigarettes.

In its latest annual human rights report, the US State Department said Gao’s
whereabouts were unknown. Gao was considered among the frontrunners last year
for the Nobel Peace Prize.

New York-based Human Rights in China said Gao was again taken away by state
security from his home village in central Shaanxi province on February 4 – about
a month after his family fled – and has not been heard from since.

ChinaAid, a US-based group assisting Christians in communist China, said it
helped the family fly to Los Angeles and then to Phoenix, where they are now
staying.

Geng told Radio Free Asia that her daughter, 15, and son, 5, were under virtual
house arrest in Beijing. The girl attempted suicide several times out of desperation
as she was unable to attend school, Geng said.

“I had no place to turn. So I fled with my children,” she said. The
US-based radio service said the family was seeking asylum.

Geng said Gao could not defect as he was under constant police surveillance.
She said the family managed to evade detection by traveling by train and then
crossing into Thailand on foot.

“We walked day and night. It was extremely hard,” Geng told Radio
Free Asia.

She said that members of the Falun Gong helped her escape.

Her husband wrote a rare open letter in 2005 accusing Chinese authorities of
persecution including torture of members of the movement.

Gao, a Christian, resigned his membership in the Chinese Communist Party in
2005 to protest the repression of Falun Gong.

“It was the proudest day of my life,” he once told a Chinese journalist
in an interview.

Gao could have enjoyed a more comfortable life. After he opened an office in
Beijing in 2000, the justice ministry designated him as one of the country’s
top 10 lawyers due to his service to the poor.

But Gao said he was inspired to defend the downtrodden due to his own background.

AFP

Posting date: 13/Mar/2009
Original article date: 13/Mar/2008
Category: Media Report

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