Eight years ago, China’s Ministry of Justice named Gao Zhisheng, a brilliant, mostly self-educated man, one of the country’s top ten lawyers. In 2008, Gao received a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize for his human-rights advocacy work. Then, less than a year later, Gao disappeared when security police spirited him away.
Often called “the conscience of China,” the 45-year-old Christian gained worldwide acclaim for his defense of workers, political activists, and religious groups. Todd Nettleton, spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs, said Gao had the “audacity” to tell the world how poorly China treats its people. In 2005, Gao criticized China’s torture of adherents of Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese religion, and his comments triggered a brutal response. For over seven weeks in 2007, police tortured Gao with cigarette burns and electric batons, threatening to kill him.
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