- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2011

BEIJING | A U.N. committee is calling on China to release a prominent human rights lawyer missing for nearly a year, saying his detention violates international law.

The request for an immediate release of Gao Zhisheng, addressed to the Chinese government, came in July from the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention but was made public Monday by Freedom Now, a legal advocacy group.

The U.N. panel also asked the government “for reparation for the harm caused,” saying Mr. Gao’s detention violated international law because he was exercising his fundamental rights and because the government failed to meet minimum international standards for due process.

Mr. Gao is a major figure in the rights movement, advocating constitutional reform and arguing landmark cases to defend religious dissenters, including members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.

Mr. Gao has been repeatedly detained and tortured by the Chinese government in the past.

His disappearance in 2009 resulted in an international outcry that may have played a role in his brief release in March last year. However, he disappeared again in April and has not reappeared.

Mr. Gao’s wife, Geng He, who sought political asylum in the United States with her two children, wrote a commentary published Sunday in the New York Times. She urged President Obama to help push for her husband’s release.

“The Chinese government must not be allowed to claim that China is a nation operating under the rule of law while persecuting those who try to ensure that it respects the law. And when the government silences dissent, the international community must speak up,” she wrote.

China has clamped down hard on dissent in recent months in the wake of anonymous calls for protests inspired by Arab uprisings. Activists have said they fear China’s massive security apparatus is using the government’s anxiety over calls for a “Jasmine Revolution” as a pretext for the broader persecution of opponents.

More than 100 people, including lawyers and activists, across China have been questioned or followed by police or placed under house arrest in recent weeks, human rights groups have said.

Writer and blogger Ran Yunfei was detained more than a month ago in the southwestern province of Sichuan, his wife said in a phone interview. She said she received a notice Monday from Chengdu police that he was formally charged with inciting subversion of state power on Friday.

In one of his last postings on Twitter, Mr. Ran wrote: “The government, on one hand, bans freedom of the press and does not allow the free flow of information. On the other hand, they block the truth. Under these circumstances, the rumors prevail.”



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