Two lawyers for jailed Christian lawyer Gao Zhisheng were denied a meeting with him Monday by authorities at the prison in far west China where he has been held since last December, following years of being “disappeared” into police custody.
The prominent Beijing human rights lawyers Li Xiongbing and Li Subin, engaged by Gao’s eldest brother, traveled Sunday from Xinhe county to Shaya county, in the remote part of the region of Xinjiang where Gao is being held. Along the way, they were stopped at a police guard post where their IDs were checked.
At 8 a.m. Monday, the two set off for Shaya prison from the county seat on the only road to the prison, which was fenced off on both sides by barbed wire. En route, they were stopped again for ID checks and an inspection of the trunks of their two vehicles. Upon arrival at the prison at 9 a.m., they made their request to see Gao to the police officer on duty at the desk, Dong Ping.
Dong said that they needed prior approval by the prison authorities to visit Gao. Because the prison administrators were holding their Monday meeting of the Communist Party branch committee and an administrative affairs meeting, no decision could be made until the meetings had ended and the prison administrators were consulted about whether the two lawyers could visit.
Around 10 a.m., the section chief for prison administration, a police officer surnamed Xu, arrived at the duty office, and Dong gave him the lawyers’ written request for a visit. Xu checked the lawyers’ request for a meeting, letter of authorization, law licenses and photocopies of Gao’s eldest brother’s government-issued ID card. He also asked to further inspect the lawyers’ ID cards. After he’d finished reading everything, he left with all the paperwork as well as the lawyers’ ID cards, saying he needed to consult his superiors.
Around 11:30 a.m., Xu and a prison administrator surnamed Kang invited the two lawyers into Xu’s office, where they gave these answers:
1. The letter of authorization signed by Gao’s brother, Gao Zhiyi, was not acceptable because such a letter should be signed by Gao Zhisheng himself. They cited the Ministry of Justice’s “Temporary Regulations on Lawyers Meeting with Prisoners” as their “reason.”
2. Gao Zhisheng himself is a senior attorney, and as such, he has no need to engage other lawyers to represent him in his appeal.
3. Lawyer Gao does not wish to see any family members or relatives
The two lawyers suggested that they meet briefly with Gao to hear from him directly whether he agreed with his brother’s decision to have the two lawyers handle his appeal, but the prison officials said this “was not in compliance with the regulations.” The lawyers followed with a heartfelt appeal for the prison police to pass on to Gao Zhisheng the letter authorizing them to represent him that was signed by his brother, Gao Zhiyi, so that he could also sign the document to indicate whether he agreed with his brother’s decision to hire them to represent him. The prison authorities’ answer was, “There’s no need.”
Left with no other options, the two lawyers left Shaya county and on Tuesday morning went to Xinjiang’s Prison Administration Bureau (in capital Urumqi) where they expressed their objections and filed a complaint about the prison’s actions. They were received by the deputy chief of prisons, who was surnamed Kai, and two police officers, who repeated the same answer that their lawyers’ request for a meeting was not approved and further clarified that Shaya prison’s answer was in fact their answer.
The two lawyers said that the prison’s requirement that lawyers must be “authorized by the prisoner” in order for a meeting to take place was totally illogical and goes against common sense, as well as being a violation of the existing laws. The criminal procedural law, prison law, and the law on lawyers, as well as other laws all stipulate that the family members of prisoners and of defendants can hire lawyers, and that lawyers can meet with prisoners on the basis of a letter of authorization from a family member, the lawyers’ licenses, and a letter requesting a meeting from the lawyers’ practice. The prison authorities and the Xinjiang Prison Administration Bureau concocted all kinds of illogical reasons to refuse the lawful requests of the lawyers for a meeting, which not only was a serious violation of the law but is also an unjustified deprivation of the legitimate rights of the lawyers as well as of Gao’s family members.
This being the case, the two lawyers plan to report this matter to other relevant departments and to fight for the right to meet with Gao, as well as to employ further legal measures to ensure that the legitimate rights of their client are protected.
ChinaAid condemns the Shaya prison authorities and the Xinjiang Prison Administration Bureau for their erroneous decision and calls on the international community to urge relevant authorities of the Chinese government to reverse these illegitimate and outrageous decisions and immediately restore the legitimate rights of Gao Zhisheng to meet with his family members and lawyers.
Gao Zhiyi has telephoned the prison hundreds of times, hoping to speak with Gao and to inquire about his health. His family has had no word from or about Gao since a brief visit in March and are extremely concerned for his safety and well-being.
ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu said, “To deny legal representation and family visits to imprisoned human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng is both inhumane and a violation of China’s own laws. We call upon the highest authorities in the Chinese regime to release him immediately and allow him to join his family in the United States.”