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Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 432 | Wed 15 Nov 2017

November 15th, 2017
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CHINA: CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE CONFINED IN AN 'INFINITE DARKNESS'
	- the plight of Gao Zhisheng
by Elizabeth Kendal

In 2001, the Chinese Ministry of Justice officially recognised committed 
Christian human rights attorney, Gao Zhisheng, as 'one of China's top ten 
lawyers'. Eventually, however, Gao's ardent defence of the oppressed and 
persecuted, as well as open letters protesting Chinese Communist Party (CCP) 
policy and practice, saw him fall foul of the system. Stripped of his 
lawyer's licence, Gao was first imprisoned in 2006. Since then he has been in 
and out of prison, forcibly 'disappeared', beaten and brutally tortured, held 
for extended times in solitary confinement, isolated and denied access to 
medical care - all because he refuses to be silenced. In 2009, Gao's wife and 
children escaped to the US. Content in the knowledge that his family is safe, 
Gao has steadfastly refused to leave China; for he is convinced that God has 
called him to 'bear his cross' inside China.  

When Gao Zhisheng emerged from three years secret detention in August 2014, 
the internationally acclaimed human rights lawyer was a shadow of his former 
self; indeed many surmised he'd been 'utterly destroyed'. Clearly the CCP was 
sending a message: 'This is what happens when you criticise the CCP.' 
Doubtless the CCP assumed it had broken Gao and terrorised all rights 
advocates into silence. Doubtless China's rulers were 'testing the waters' to 
see how much violent repression the 'international community' would allow 
them. [Plenty, so it seems!]  

Subsequently placed under house arrest, isolated and denied access to medical 
care, Gao could have withered and died; but he did not. Like Samson, he 
recovered and re-focused. After years of secret detention, Gao threw his 
energy into secret writing. Defying serious health issues and intensive 
supervision, he was able to write both a memoir and a 40-page human rights 
report while working on a new constitution. Smuggled out of the country at 
great risk, Gao's secret writings have since been published. [See the RLPB 
blog for details and links.] Furthermore, Gao also communicated secretly. In 
an interview with the Chinese language New York-based New Tang Dynasty 
Television on 7 August, he criticised the CCP for its suffocating repression 
and brutal tyranny. Then, on 13 August, Gao 'disappeared'. [See RLPB 421, 
August Update, (Aug 2017).] 

On 3 November China Aid Association (CAA) revealed that Gao had escaped from 
his government minders with the assistance of two friends who had been 
desperate to get him medical care. Though they managed to evade the 
authorities for 23 days, the large contingent of officers deployed to find 
him eventually succeeded. Gao was quickly 'disappeared' into secret detention 
while his friends - Shao Zhongguo and Li Fawang - were both arrested. Whilst 
Shao has not been seen since, Li (a diabetic) has been released, albeit not 
before suffering a bout of cruel punishment. On 12 November Radio Free Asia 
(RFA) reported that the Gao Zhisheng Lawyers' Concern Group had managed to 
locate Gao. According to the group, Gao is being held in a secret prison in 
Shaanxi Province in solitary confinement, in total darkness and denied access 
to medical care. In a smuggled sound-bite delivered to RFA, Gao said the 
conditions are even worse than those he experienced in Shaya Prison, Xinjiang 
(2011-2014). He said he feels like he is confined in an 'infinite darkness'. 
His supporters fear for his life.   

As long-time religious liberty expert and advocate, Benedict Rogers, wrote 
recently in the Hong Kong Free Press (11 Novembers): 'Gao's work is a 
challenge to us all. It deserves to be read in the corridors of power. He has 
acted with extraordinary courage and is paying a very high price for his 
conscience. It is time for the rest of the world to rediscover its 
conscience, stand up to China and, at a minimum, demand Gao's release.'   


PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* intervene to ensure Gao's writings are not only spread and read far and 
wide, but that they will have the desired impact; may they facilitate change 
in China.  

* intervene to facilitate the release of Gao Zhishang and all China's abused 
and incarcerated human rights defenders.  

MAY OUR MERCIFUL GOD:

* pour out his Holy Spirit abundantly to comfort and sustain our brother Gao 
Zhisheng; may Gao rest in the assurance that nothing can separate him from 
the love of Christ Jesus who is all the while interceding on his behalf. 
[Read and pray Romans 8:31-39.]  

* May Gao's cell become a sanctuary - a place where God dwells (from Isaiah 
8: 11-15).

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