Chinese officials recapture Christian human rights lawyer after escape from house arrest

(Wikimedia Commons/Luo Shaoyang)A Chinese People's Armed Police guard on Tiananmen Square, in front of the portrait of Mao Zedong.

A prominent Christian human rights lawyer who was under house arrest had managed to escape briefly from his home in August, but he was rearrested by Chinese officials in a neighboring province.

According to International Christian Concern (ICC), Gao Zhisheng had escaped from his home in Shaanxi and hid in a vacation house in Jiexiu city in a neighboring province for 23 days, until Shaanxi police mobilized a large number of police officers to cross the border and arrest him.

The lawyer is now believed to be under police custody in Beijing, but his exact whereabouts are unknown.

Gao's friends, Shao Zhongguo and Li Fawang, were also arrested for helping the activist escape from his home.

Li, who was released on Oct. 26 with bail pending trial, said that he briefly saw Gao before he was transported back to Shaanxi for detention, but he was not able to speak with him.

Both Li and Shao were reportedly mistreated during their detention. According to ICC, they were shackled, beaten and fed leftover food. Li, who suffers from diabetes, had lost his eyesight because he was not provided with medicine during the first few days of his detention.

There had been concerns about the lack of information about Gao's whereabouts as his health has declined from the years in captivity.

"Though we are glad to know that Mr. Gao enjoyed brief freedom that was taken away from him for more than a decade, we are concerned about his treatment after being recaptured," said Gina Goh, ICC's regional manager.

"In most cases, the Chinese government treats human rights advocates and Christians on the same level as terrorists once they are imprisoned, often putting them through torture and solitary confinement. Given Gao's successful escape, he is subject to retaliation from law enforcement. We hereby urge the Chinese government to stop its unlawful detention of Mr. Gao immediately," she added.

The lawyer suffers from tooth loss and other health problems, but he declined his friends' offer to bring him to a dentist after his escape because he did not want to risk being captured.

China Aid had reported that Gao had not been able to eat a decent meal for three years because of constant bleeding and toothaches.

Gao, a two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, had chronicled China's persecution of Christians and other religious groups in a book that was smuggled into the country and recently published in the U.S.

The book, titled "Unwavering Convictions," details the personal abuse that he suffered at the hands of Chinese officials, as well as the Communist Party's suppression of political rights, speech, information and ideas, and its abuse of labor rights.

Gao came under the scrutiny of the Communist Party in 2005 because of his advocacy for human rights including religious freedom.

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