After briefly resurfacing in late March, prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng has once again disappeared. His case is one of the most bizarre in recent memory. A bright and promising young lawyer, Gao was initially embraced by his government, but ran afoul of the Communist regime after taking on the cases of underground Christians and Falun Gong practitioners (both of whom are considered by the government to hold "illegal" beliefs). In 2006, Gao was disbarred and imprisoned for subversion after sending a letter to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao protesting the persecution of members of the Falun Gong. Following his release from prison in 2007, Gao further enraged the government by issuing a public statement that he had been tortured while in custody.
Then in February of 2009 Gao disappeared. For over a year no one, including close friends, relatives, and international human rights groups, could confirm Gao's whereabouts. In January of this year the government told Gao's brother that Gao had "lost his way," implying they did not know where Gao was. Shortly after that pronouncement, authorities changed their tune, saying Gao was "where he should be" without elaborating on what that might mean. (Read more after the jump)
In February the government told human rights groups that Gao was working in Urumqi, the capital of the far northwestern province of Xinjiang. Then, after over a year of silence, Gao was found, though the circumstances remained odd. He made calls to friends, but the calls were always rushed, and he never gave details about where he had been or what had happened to him. Gao's friends cautioned that they were concerned he was under surveillance. Gao gave one interview with the foreign press, in which he said he was giving up activism in order to be with his family. This decision is certainly understandable coming from a man who has endured tremendous physical and mental suffering, as well as prolonged periods away from his wife and children. But now that Gao has gone missing yet again, his friends believe this brief period of "freedom" was nothing more than an elaborate act. The Chinese government made a show of proving to the world that Gao was still alive, and now, hoping that the international community is satisfied--perhaps hoping that we have forgotten about Gao's case altogether--Gao has once again disappeared.