By BosNewsLife Asia Service
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– Concerns remained Saturday, January 16, over the whereabouts of Chinese Christian human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, after Chinese authorities for the first time admitted he went missing amid reports that he was tortured to death, Christian rights activists said.
The Nobel Peace Prize nominee disappeared in February 2009 after he was seen being hauled away by Chinese security officials and there have been unconfirmed reports that he died because of torture, added China Aid Association (CAA), a major advocacy group supporting Gao’s family. CAA quoted a policeman who originally detained Gao Zhisheng as saying that the lawyer allegedly “went missing while out on a walk” on September 25, 2009.
Gao’s wife refused to comment, but was reported to be extremely upset after hearing the news. “This is the first time a Chinese government official has hinted that they no longer have Gao Zhisheng in their custody,” CAA explained. His wife and children have since escaped to the United States where his daughter is hospitalized due to the stress of her father’s disappearance, CAA said. “Gege, Gao’s daughter, had been reportedly “pale and tired-looking” with worry for months.
After hearing a rumor of Gao’s death just before Christmas, Gege became so emotionally distraught, she was forced to be hospitalized,” and remains under medical watch in a New York hospital CAA said. “Since mid-December, 2009, ominous rumors have circulated about Gao Zhisheng, hinting that he has died after brutal torture in prison. However, no reports have been confirmed, and the Chinese government continues to refuse comment on his condition and whereabouts,” the group told BosNewsLife.
“It is totally unacceptable for the Chinese government to lose track of their own prisoner,” said CAA President Bob Fu. “It is absolutely clear that he was forcibly taken from his home in February 2009. Nearly a year later, the Chinese government now says they do not have him.”
There has been mounting international pressure on China to hand-over the righta activist or at least give information about his whereabouts. Gao, was known for his legal battles for those reportedly persecuted for their faith. China’s reported confirmation that he went missing, comes just days after 30 leaders of the Chinese House Church Alliance (CHCA) were detained in Handan city, Hebei province, Chinese Christians said.
CAA quoted one one detained pastor, who was able to use his cellphone briefly to notify an outside contact, as saying that a group of officers from the Handan City Public Security and Religious Affairs Bureaus broke into their leaders’ meeting place on January 8, where the 30 men and women were having a bible study.
They allegedly forcefully took them to an unknown interrogation center within the city. The 30 detained leaders include Pastor Li Cuixiang, from the Handan area, and Elder Wu Jianghe, from Beijing, CAA said, adding that security forces were threatening some of the detained pastors with 15 days of detention. Chinese authorities were not immediately available for comment.
China has denied wrongdoing, saying it defends religious freedom but within authorized churches. However most of China’s estimated 130 million Christians prefer to worship outside Communist government control, churches and rights groups say.