The New York Times
BEIJING — The brother of a prominent dissident rights lawyer who had been missing for 20 months said Sunday that the lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, was being held in a prison in the remote western region of Xinjiang.
Gao Zhisheng has been jailed in Xinjiang, his brother says.
The brother, Gao Zhiyi, told two news agencies that he had been informed that Gao Zhisheng was in a prison in Shaya County. The brother said he had received an official notice on Sunday telling him that Mr. Gao was now back in prison because a court had revoked his probation, and that he would have to serve three more years.
Mr. Gao, a Beijing lawyer known for taking politically delicate cases, was sentenced to three years of probation in 2006 for inciting subversion of the state. The official Xinhua news agency reported last month that his probation had been revoked.
But human rights advocates say Mr. Gao was never on probation because he had been missing for 20 months, presumably in police custody. Over the years, Mr. Gao has disappeared for lengthy periods and re-emerged to say he had been tortured by security forces.
After his 2006 conviction, Mr. Gao was supposedly released on probation, but then disappeared. He resurfaced briefly, and apparently was seized by security officials again in 2009. He re-emerged in April 2010 and gave an interview to The Associated Press, presumably with the permission of officials, and then disappeared again. Mr. Gao’s brother said at the time that he had seen Mr. Gao in the custody of public security officers.
Mr. Gao is one of China’s most outspoken dissidents, and his case has attracted support from foreign governments and human rights groups. The United States government has called on China to release Mr. Gao, who once defended practitioners of Falun Gong, a banned spiritual group.
Scholars of China’s legal system say security forces are acting with growing impunity and increasingly do not feel constrained by the law. Since last February, when Chinese leaders grew fearful that widespread protests might erupt because of the antiauthoritarian uprisings in the Middle East, security forces have regularly detained intellectuals, lawyers and rights defenders without giving any legal cause for doing so.
The government is now considering revising its criminal procedure law to effectively legalize secret detentions, the scholars say.
Mr. Gao has said that security officials tortured him by beating him with electric batons, pistol-whipping him and holding burning cigarettes close to his eyes.
The western region of Xinjiang is a vast area, much of it desolate, that makes up one-sixth of China’s territory. During the dynastic eras, rulers struggled to bring it under their control and use it as a buffer zone between the Chinese heartland and neighboring areas of Central Asia. Along with criminals, ethnic Han Chinese suspected of being a threat to the imperial court would sometimes be exiled to Xinjiang.