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The New York Times: Family’s Visit Confirms Chinese Dissident Is Alive

January 23, 2013

From Edward Wong with the New York Times, “Family’s Visit Confirms Chinese Dissident Is Alive”:

Family members of one of China’s most prominent dissidents, Gao Zhisheng, visited him in a prison in the western region of Xinjiang this month, according to Mr. Gao’s older brother and a human rights advocacy group. The visit was the first confirmation in nine months that Mr. Gao was still alive.

The group, Human Rights in China, based in New York, said in a statement late on Tuesday that Mr. Gao’s younger brother and his father-in-law visited him on Jan. 12, citing Mr. Gao’s wife. The older brother, Gao Zhiyi, confirmed the visit when reached by telephone on Wednesday, but said he had no further details because the younger brother had not yet returned to the family’s hometown in Shaanxi Province.

Foreign human rights advocates say they fear for Mr. Gao’s life because there is no word on his well-being or whereabouts for long stretches of time. Foreign governments have condemned China for its harsh treatment of Mr. Gao over the years.

The previous family visit also took place at the prison in Xinjiang, called Shaya, on March 24, 2012. Human Rights in China said there was no information from the latest visit on a possible release date for Mr. Gao. During that visit, the group said, “Mr. Gao’s mind seemed clear, and he spoke normally.”

It said the authorities told the younger brother not to talk with Mr. Gao about his case or prison conditions. The two visitors were also barred from discussing Mr. Gao’s wife, Geng He, and two children, who fled to the United States in 2009 with the help of a Christian organization that spirited them to Thailand from China.

The younger brother was also told not to give any interviews to the news media after the visit. He asked when the family would next be permitted to see Mr. Gao and was told that the family had to “follow old ways,” according to the human rights group.

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