Geng He (耿和), wife of Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), the prominent Chinese rights defense lawyer who has been disappeared since early February 2009, is requesting help from the United States government to put pressure on the Chinese government to disclose Gao’s whereabouts. She has requested that Human Rights in China (HRIC) release her open letter, dated April 23, 2009, to members of the U.S. Congress.
Gao, an outspoken critic of the Chinese government who represented, among others, victims of forced evictions, Falun Gong practitioners, and house church activists, has been a target of government actions since 2005, after he wrote a series of letters to Chinese leaders urging them to stop their attack on Falun Gong practitioners and dissidents. In late 2006, he was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and received a suspended three-year prison term. Even though he was not imprisoned, he was detained multiple times, and his family was frequently harassed. After writing an open letter to the U.S. Congress denouncing the human rights situation in China, Gao was kidnapped in September 2007 and kept for 59 days, during which time he was brutally tortured. In early February 2009, HRIC released an account by Gao of his torture.
On January 9, 2009, Gao’s wife, Geng He, and their two children escaped from China and made their way to Thailand a week later. On February 4, Gao was seen taken forcibly from his hometown, Xiaoshibanqiao Village in Shaanxi Province, by more than 10 state security policemen. He has not been heard from since. His wife and two children arrived in the United States on March 11, 2009. There have been urgent expressions of concern for Gao’s safety from various governments, human rights groups, and lawyers’ associations.
Letter by Geng He to U.S. Congress
April 23, 2009
Honorable Members of the United States Congress,
My name is Geng He (耿和) and I am the wife of political prisoner and lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), who is currently being persecuted in mainland China. On March 11 this year, I arrived in the United States with my son and daughter for political asylum. I write this letter to you in order to, first, express my gratitude towards the American government. At a time when our family was in danger, the American government’s humanitarian aid enabled my children and me to escape from brutal persecution. We are safe now, but my husband’s situation has become more perilous. Therefore, I entreat you to go a step further in helping our family by putting an end to the Chinese government’s persecution of my husband, lawyer Gao Zhisheng.
My husband is an honest lawyer. Due to his professional capabilities our family once had a good income and living standard. When my husband began taking part in rights defense cases in 2003, he clashed frequently with the corrupt and criminalized elements of the Chinese government at all levels. In 2004, he investigated and exposed the government’s actions against Falun Gong followers in the biggest political persecution case in mainland China and wrote letters to Chinese leaders three times requesting them to stop their attacks on Falun Gong. Though his actions did not violate China’s laws, but rather, upheld them, he was still continuously threatened by the government at all levels and his lawyer’s license was revoked. The problems he personally encountered made him realize that, without changing the political system of China, there would be no way to lawfully ensure the safety, interests, and dignity of citizens. Therefore, time and again, within the framework allowed by the Chinese Constitution and the law, he initiated peaceful citizen demonstrations and petitions to expose and protest the problems of corruption in government and tyrannical rule.
My husband’s righteous actions drew continuous and escalating abuse by the Chinese government. On August 15, 2006, they kidnapped my husband and formally arrested him on September 21. During this period, the authorities tormented him in all sorts of ways and even kidnapped, harassed, and tormented our children and me in order to break his will. On December 21, 2006, after having deprived my husband of the right to retain defense counsel, the authorities convicted and sentenced him.
Soon afterwards, my husband revealed these problems to the international community. The authorities were infuriated. They kidnapped and tormented him many times. On the night of September 21, 2007, my husband, with a black hood thrown over his head, was kidnapped and brought to an unknown location. For 59 days, many people tortured and ravaged him in all kinds of ways, including beating him with an electric prod, inserting bamboo sticks into his reproductive organs, holding lit cigarettes close to his eyes and nose, etc., so that his eyes would burn and he would be forced to inhale smoke. My husband told me later that he was in such unbearable pain at the time that his sweat, blood, and other bodily fluids covered the floor. Among the reasons the authorities gave for tormenting my husband was that he had written to the United States Congress.
Because we could no longer endure the Chinese government’s thuggish and barbaric harassment and persecution, on January 9, 2009, I took my children on the treacherous journey of escaping China. On February 4, my husband disappeared again from his hometown in Shaanxi and has not been heard from since. I have no doubt that this kidnapping was the Chinese government’s retaliation for our escape. In view of his horrific experiences in the past, I’m extremely worried about my husband’s safety.
Honorable members of the U.S. Congress, as a wife I am terribly distressed and doubt our decision to leave China. Though I had been mentally prepared to face adversities alongside my husband, our children, ages 16 and five, have already been unable to go to school due to the kidnapping, intimidation, and beatings by the authorities. My daughter even ran away from home. Our relatives and friends are worried that she will become mentally disturbed from her fear. If we had not left that horrific country, their whole lives would have been ruined. However, that my husband was prepared to be tortured for the sake of our escape is like a knife in my heart. My children ask me every day, where’s dad? I’m alone and isolated here and can only appeal to you to pressure the Chinese government to stop persecuting my husband and tell the world his whereabouts and condition.
My friends tell me that this great nation of the United States, which regards human rights as a cornerstone of its foreign policy, would never just sit and watch my husband suffer and do nothing. Thus they encouraged and advised me to write to you to seek help. I remember that, when my husband was still free, whenever major human rights cases arose in China, he would always look towards the United States. He always said: The United States is the cornerstone of world freedom, human rights and social order; the United States would not tolerate despotic rule and the wanton abuse of the weak and the masses.
I have been in the United States for just over a month but I’ve already felt that in this great nation of constitutional government, citizens enjoy security, liberty and dignity. I can understand even more the meaning of my husband’s struggles. He, with utmost courage, once told the people of the world that he wanted Chinese people to enjoy freedom and dignity without fear, just like Americans. It is for this that he is being persecuted.
In the past, whenever I was worried about my husband because of his challenges against tyranny, he would often console me by saying, evil cannot win over good, the ones upholding justice will always have help. He said that if one day he would be persecuted because of his ideals and sense of justice, the people in the world who believe in justice would stand by him and support him. I know that he would still harbor this light and hope in his heart while enduring various torments in prison! When faced with a huge machine of tyranny, this hope may seem small and weak but it is extraordinarily steadfast, because his faith in the United States is at the core of his hope and expectation.
Now, I am willing do all I can to not let him down! I hope that he can gain the help of the great United States through you. That is the faith and hope he holds in his heart while enduring all forms of torture in that dark prison cell!
Honorable members of the U.S. Congress, please help me support my husband, lawyer Gao Zhisheng, so that the evil forces will know that there is resistance against persecution; so that the millions of Chinese suffering this despotic rule will know that the United States is concerned about their human rights situation, and will not give up. My husband would be more resolute because of this, the Chinese people would feel inspired because of this, and China and the world would eventually transform because of this!
Many thanks for your concern!
For more information on Gao Zhisheng, see:
Gao Zhisheng’s account of his September 2007 kidnapping and torture: