It was reported yesterday that prominent human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng has surfaced in Wutai Mountain, the site of a well-known Buddhist monastery in Shanxi province, after having been missing for over a year. Speaking to Western journalists over the phone, Gao said:
I’m fine now, but I’m not in a position to be interviewed (…) I’ve been sentenced but released.
Over the past year, Gao’s situation has been shrouded in mystery. In February, he was declared ‘missing’ one year after he was seized by authorities.
Gao has long been a thorn in the government’s side by defending Falun Gong practitioners and Christian groups. His law license was revoked in 2005, and he later confessed to charges of sedition after what he said was over a month of torture in 2006. Following this, he and his family lived under surveillance, which his wife and children evaded in January 2009 by fleeing China and being granted asylum by the US.
Earlier this month, having been pressed on the topic by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yang Jiechi denied that Gao had ever been tortured, but claimed he had been sentenced to prison for subversion. BBC News also spoke with Gao’s brother, Gao Zhiyi, who revealed he had spoken on the phone with his sibling. He said his brother had “sounded alright, but didn’t say where he was calling from.”
Gao told journalists on Sunday, “right now I just need to calm down and lead a quiet life.” He then ended the conversation by referring to his wife and children: “they are like kites that have had their strings cut, and now they are floating far off into the sky.”