National Press Club

Wife of Chinese rights lawyer calls on U.S. to help husband

September 15, 2014 | By Matthew Robertson |

The wife of a well-known Chinese human rights lawyer asked President Barack Obama to work to bring her husband, Gao Zhisheng, to the U.S. to reunite with his family and receive needed medical treatment.

Geng He, Gao’s wife, and her lawyer, Jared Genser, began several days of meetings in Washington with an address to the Club Sept. 8.

“I stand here today to make an earnest plea to President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry: I hope you will express publicly your concern for Gao Zhisheng." she said. "It would be the most candid and the most direct support for human rights in China. Your voices will give hope and encouragement not only to Gao Zhisheng, whose plight has not ended, but also to those living in China who yearn for freedom and human rights.”

Gao last month was released from a three-year prison sentence and more than five years of solitary confinement in the remote Chinese province of Xinjiang. Chinese security forces began targeting Gao in 2005, after he began taking on politically sensitive legal cases, most notably those of practitioners of Falun Gong who had been sentenced to forced labor camps for their religious beliefs. Gao also represented persecuted Christians and workers protesting exploitative treatment.

Gao lost 38 pounds during his time in custody, and half a dozen of his teeth are now loose, causing him aching pain all day, Geng said. He suffers from malnutirion, low blood sugar, and a cyst on his gall bladder, she said. He also has difficulty communicating.

“I feared that Gao Zhisheng would be subject to brutal torture again, and that the ill-treatment would render him mentally retarded or physically handicapped or both,” Geng said. “Now, all of my fears have become a terrible reality.” He talks in “stops and starts” and sometimes requires family members to interpret for him, she said.

“The home he returned to has now turned into another prison,” Geng said. “Each morning and each afternoon, public security officers ‘visit’ him in shifts, each lasting two or three hours. As a result, he and family members are unable to live normal lives.”