The fear comes in not knowing. This is something Geng He, the wife of Gao Zhisheng, a Chinese rights lawyer who disappeared on April 10 last year, well knows.
Geng wrote a touching appeal in the New York Times today calling attention to her husband’s plight. “My husband has been tortured many times,” Geng wrote.
In 2007, officials subjected him to electric shocks, held lighted cigarettes up to his eyes and pierced his genitals with toothpicks. In 2009, the police beat him with handguns for two days. He has been tied up and forced to sit motionless for hours, threatened with death and told that our children were having nervous breakdowns.
It seems likely Gao was targeted because he took on many sensitive cases including fighting for victims of land grabs and because he wrote an open letter to the Chinese government calling them to end the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners (a banned spiritual sect).
To date, the Chinese authorities have refused to reveal where Gao is being held or even if they are detaining him.
Geng can only imagine the worst.
“I don’t know where he is, or even if he is alive,” she writes. If he has been killed, we should be allowed the dignity of laying him to rest.
Gao was awarded the the Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award last week. His wife, who fled China with their two children in 2009, accepted the prize in his place, you can watch her acceptance speech here