By BosNewsLife Asia Service
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– The brother and father-in-law of prominent Christian Chinese rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng has been allowed to meet with him in a remote jail for the first time in nearly two years, “putting to rest fears that he may have died,” his family and rights activists confirmed Wednesday, March 28.
In published remarks released by rights groups and seen by BosNewsLife, Gao’s wife, Geng He, said he broke into tears when her father told Gao, “My health is greatly improved now that I have seen you.”
Gao’s older brother and his father-in-law were permitted a half-hour meeting with him on March 24 at the Shaya prison, in a remote part of Xinjiang province in far western China, Christians with close knowledge about the situation said.
They were reportedly able to see each other through a glass window and converse using a prison phone.
Gao was taken into police custody several times since 2006 and was last seen by his family members in April 2010, when he briefly resurfaced after a long period of disappearance.
In 2010, he spoke about the “brutal torture” allegedly inflicted on him by Chinese police, including suffering electric shocks to his genitals and cigarette burns to his eyes.
Chinese officials did not comment on the case Wednesday, March 28. They have in general denied human rights abuses, saying Christians and other groups are free to worship within the laws.
Gao’s troubles began more than five years ago, when he renounced his Communist Party membership and openly called for an end to a crackdown on the banned Falungong spiritual group. He also defended house church Christians, and coal miners, among other vulnerable people.
In December 2006, he was convicted of “subversion” and given a suspended sentence of three years in prison, immediately placed under house arrest and put on probation for five years.
Gao was detained in February 2009 and had been held largely incommunicado by authorities except for a brief release in March 2010.
Then in December — in the first official news about Gao since 2010 — the state-run Xinhua news agency said the lawyer had been sent to prison.
Judicial authorities subsequently sent a letter to his older brother Gao Zhiyi saying the lawyer was being held in a prison in the remote northwestern region of Xinjiang.
But when he traveled there to visit the activist in January, authorities at the prison refused to let him in, saying Gao Zhisheng was undergoing a three-month period of “education”, French news agency AFP reported.
“I met him, I met him,” Gao Zhiyi told AFP on Wednesday, March 28, refusing to comment further, saying it was not “convenient” for him to talk.
China Aid Association, an advocacy group closely monitoring the situation, said China’s main law enforcement agency, the Public Security Bureau (PSB) “instructed Gao’s family members not to talk to the outside world about the visit.”
It added that PSB officers from Gao’s hometown in Shaanxi province had accompanied Gao’s older brother “on the entire trip from central China, a journey of more than 3000 kilometers (over 2000 miles) to Shaya.”
During their half-hour visit, Gao asked his brother to deposit 600 yuan ($100) into his prison account, Christians said. Gao also asked about the wellbeing of his family.
Gao’s brother “cried a lot” and said to Gao’s wife, “I am relieved after finally being able to see that he is at least alive,” explained CAA, which is in close contact with the family.
“We are glad to finally get this good news,” said CAA chief and former house church pastor Bob Fu.
However, “For the sake of true justice and the rule of law in China, the Chinese government should immediately release attorney Gao without any conditions,” he added. Gao is totally innocent.”
There may be as many as 130 million Christians in China, even officials acknowledged, but many prefer to worship outside the state-controlled churches. (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).