Gao Zhisheng has already paid a heavy price for his work as one of China's leading human-rights lawyers. Five years ago he was the darling of the Chinese legal community, feted with awards for the cases he took defending clients in medical malpractice or business disputes. His decision to represent controversial clients such as the victims of forced evictions led to increasingly severe retaliation by the government. Today some observers are worried that he may have died at the hands of the police.(Where Is Gao Zhisheng?)
State security forces took Mr. Gao into custody last February, and one of those policemen last week told his brother that he went "missing" while on a walk on Sept. 25. The family's lack of contact with Mr. Gao, in contravention of China's own laws, had already stoked fears for his safety, and this police claim not to have him in custody suggests that the authorities have something to hide in their handling of the case.
Mr. Gao has been a victim of the very legal system whose corruption he worked to expose.