The New York Times is reporting that Gao Zhisheng has disappeared. Again.
He first disappeared while in police custody. According to police at the time, he “lost his way and went missing.” Many (including us) speculated that he was dead, suspicious which were not assuaged by later assurances from the police that Gao was “where he should be.”
But then in late March, he suddenly resurfaced. He told family and reporters alike that he had actually been free for six months, and even gave several interviews, but family and friends who spoke with him on the phone all said he seemed like he was lying, and his story did seem a bit odd. Why would he wait six months after being freed from police custody to contact his family? The strangeness of the whole situation led many (again, including us) to suspect that he had never actually been freed and that the whole thing was a dog-and-pony show for the Western press. This recent news of his disappearance — again — lends a lot of credence to that theory:
Associates said Mr. Gao failed to return to a Beijing apartment on April 20 after spending more than a week in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region in western China, where he had been visiting his father-in-law. Mr. Gao telephoned his father-in-law as his plane left Urumqi, saying he would call upon his arrival in Beijing, they said.
That appeared to be his last contact with the outside world. Li Heping, another Beijing human rights lawyer and a close friend, said he had visited Mr. Gao’s apartment repeatedly, but had not found him. “No one had been there for a while,” said Mr. Li, who last went to the apartment on Thursday. “I have no idea who to call, or who has taken him.”
Others said they were sure that the government had again removed him from public view and that the authorities’ earlier decision to allow him to resurface briefly had been a ploy to try to demonstrate to the outside world that he had not been mistreated.
The whole case is deeply odd, given that Chinese authorities don’t generally bother with the dog-and-pony routine. There is Western pressure surrounding Gao’s case, but there are other imprisoned dissidents who the government seems to have no qualms about openly admitting they’re holding. Gao’s allegations that he was tortured during a previous detention may be the differentiating factor, but regardless, it’s hard to believe that anyone in the government could have thought this “release” was going to convince anyone, especially if Gao was just going to “be disappeared” again after it.
So, once again, we have to ask: what the hell is going on here?
New on ChinaGeeks
Over on ChinaGeeks Chinese, 三水 has translated the New York Times story into Chinese: 中国人权律师高智晟再一次人间蒸发.