Gao Zhisheng, a Christian human rights lawyer in China, has received a 3-year prison sentence for reportedly "violating the terms of his probation."
These charges were brought against Zhisheng, despite his disappearance on April 20, 2010. No news have surface about his whereabouts, condition, or health thus far.
Chinese authorities have repeatedly avoided questions from the international community about his case and whereabouts.
According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide's (CSW) website, the Chinese State Media reported Zhisheng's sentence on Dec. 16, 2010. His sentence stems from a prior 2006 probationary sentence, where he was given three years imprisonment and five years probation for "subversion of state power." This sentence is set to expire next week.
There are concerns about Zhisheng's safety, since some believe he has been severely tortured while missing. These fears have arisen due to the torture he endured during his prior prison detention. Zhisheng's brother in China and his wife in the U.S have not yet been informed about his return to prison.
"CSW calls upon the Chinese government to release Gao Zhisheng immediately," Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) stated. "It is inconceivable that a man who has gone missing at the hands of the authorities could have violated the terms of his probation and we ask the international community to express their support for Gao in the strongest terms."
"His disappearance represents a grave denial of rights to a Chinese citizen who has dared to speak up about injustice," he added.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide is a Christian organization that fights for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.
Gao Zhisheng is a prominent self-taught lawyer, who was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The Ministry of Justice also named him one of China’s “Top Ten Lawyers”.
Because he defended cases of religious persecution, including house church leaders and Falun Gong practitioners, Zhisheng eventually attracted the attention of local authorities. In 2007, he penned an open letter to the U.S. Congress that highlighted the use of torture by Chinese authorities.
His first public disappearance occurred on Feb. 4, 2009. Following a brief reappearance in March 2010, he went missing again on Apr. 20, 2010 during a trip to Beijing after visiting relatives in Xinjiang province.
Zhisheng has been reported as being the subject of severe torture in detention ever since he has gone missing. Due to the fears and concerns over their safety, Zhisheng's wife and two children fled from China. They now reside in the U.S.