Book: A China More Just
- My Fight as a Rights Lawyer in the World’s Largest Communist State
Attorney. Activist. Fearless. Faithful.
The story of one man who has taken on the world’s largest authoritarian regime… And, in the eyes of many, won.
Born and raised in a cave with only the stars to tell time, Gao Zhisheng rose from poverty to become China’s most important lawyer. He has courageously sought justice for vulnerable groups such as the poor, the disabled, and the persecuted. Yet Gao’s fortitude has drawn the ire of Communist authorities.
Today, physical threat and police surveillance are a constant reality for both Gao and his family. Undeterred, he has responded in the nonviolent tradition of Gandhi by launching nationwide hunger strikes to intensify the call for justice and human rights in China. His undaunted resolve and generous spirit have won the hearts of millions. Whispers can be heard in China’s streets, “Will Gao Zhisheng become the next president?”
Part memoir, part social commentary, part call to action, A China More Just is a penetrating account of contemporary China through the life of one attorney. Its selection of writings takes readers from a village in rural China to urban courtrooms, mountainside torture chambers, and the halls of a reluctant government. A China More Just is at once witty and raw, touching and wrenching, sober and playful.
About the Author
Gao Zhisheng rose from utter poverty to become one of China’s most acclaimed lawyers and a leading advocate for the oppressed. Life took a most unlikely turn in 1991 when Gao happened to learn, while selling vegetables by the roadside, that the country was looking to train new lawyers. Though possessed only a middle-school education, Gao taught himself law and passed the national bar examination in 1995.
Gao made headlines in 1999 by winning the largest medical malpractice lawsuit in Chinese history. In 2001, China’s Ministry of Justice named him one of the nation’s top-ten attorneys. A Christian, Gao has since become known for his tenacious pursuit of justice on behalf of China’s most vulnerable—from exploited coal miners to democracy advocates, the poor, and victims of religious persecution.
In 2005 Gao wrote a series of open letters to China’s authorities detailing his investigation into the torture of members of the Falun Gong. Thereafter he found himself “besieged,” as he put it, by infuriated Party rulers.
Gao’s Beijing law firm was soon after shut down, his family put under surveillance, and attempts made on his life.
In 2006 he initiated a series of hunger strikes that involved thousands worldwide.
Gao’s maltreatment by the Chinese regime has been the subject of formal resolutions by the United States Congress and the European Parliament. Rights groups such as Amnesty International have campaigned to ensure his welfare. He has been featured by The New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian and many other prominent media.
In 2006 Gao became the recipient of the Chinese Liberal Culture Movement’s Special Human Rights Award, the Asia-Pacific Human Rights Foundation’s Human Rights Champion Award, and in 2007 was awarded the American Board of Trial Advocates’ Courageous Advocacy Award.
He is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
Table of Contents
ONE Growing Up Tender Yet Strong
From Peasant Child to Respected Attorney –
“When will we ever have enough to eat?”
The Winding Road Home
Perseverance Rewarded by Heaven
Returning to the Cave –
Lunar New Year
An Old Copper Ladle
A Handful of Fried Soybeans
My Common-Folk Mother
TWO A Lonely Mission
The Plight of China’s Lawyers
Behind Each Case, Systemic Problems
A Loner’s Solitude
THREE Advocating for Rights
A Rural Road
The Oil Investors
The Spiritual Group
The Shanwei Massacre
FOUR Open Letters on Falun Gong
Open Letter to the National People’s Congress
Open Letter to Chairman Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao
Second Open Letter to Chairman Hu and Premier Wen
Open Letter to Chairman Hu, Premier Wen, and My Fellow Chinese
FIVE The Siege on My Family: A Journal
Early risers of a different sort
Like a sudden gust, police appear
Leave the Party, I tell my police “friends”
Covert and overt spying
On New Year’s Day, as unprincipled as ever
A new record: twelve vehicles!
The battle expands
“He’s a Falun Gong!”
Guo Feixiong’s exit
The most shameless of villains
Have they any way out?
Love that flows like the Yangtze
“Send in reinforcements!”
A contrived “car accident”
Reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution
Beijing’s insane policeman
“Whoever gives him subsistence money…”
A chat with the Beijing Judicial Bureau
Ending the violence and hatred
SIX Breaking from the Party
My Wife Quits the Party
The Proudest Day of My Life
On the Verge of Collapse
SEVEN The Hunger Strike Movement
Initiating the Hunger Strike
Responding to Arrests and Beatings
Something Anyone Can Do
Staying the Course with Nonviolence
What Would Heaven Want, Dear Brothers and Sisters?
- by Gao Zhisheng
“It is our misfortune to live in the China of this historical period. No one on this earth has ever had to experience or witness the suffering that has befallen us! Yet it is also our fortune to live in the China of this historical period. For we will experience and witness how the greatest people on earth banished this suffering once and for all!”
Such were my concluding remarks on December 21, 2005, offered as stinging tears rolled down my cheeks when I addressed fellow citizens who had come to Beijing to petition the government.
I have never been a man of letters, and so it never occurred to me that I would write a book—much less in times as stifling as these.
In this time when the majority of my fellow Chinese have become numb to, or have even adapted to, the darkness and fallacies of this age, my writings have sparked hatred and fear in those despots who operate in the shadows. When the passion, the edge, and the righteous indignation that mark some of my words (in particular those exposing the infuriating wickedness of this dictatorship) at times pierce through the thick darkness enshrouding my fellow citizens, they—having long since grown acclimated to, or been forced to acclimate to, the darkness—may find the light of my words unsettling. This suggests that I have failed to “acclimate” to the national psyche of China. So be it.
This era is not just about enduring setbacks, however. We also have our share of achievements in this day. For me, someone with merely eight years of formal education, it is an achievement to have written something others want to read, and even more so to see it published in book form.
It’s really not that I am fond of heaviness. But insofar as my writing is undeniably “heavy,” it is because the weight, the burden, that I feel forces me to think and compels me to act, to pick up my pen. I must narrate this story. I am moved by an ardent hope that by articulating it, I may in some way help to relieve China of the crushing burden on her back.
Strictly speaking, I should be counted as an activist, not a thinker; much less am I the founder of some institution. I have sought in my writing a style that delights in its uninhibitedness and that speaks directly from the heart. Much of my writing is improvisational and spurred by circumstance. I myself am surprised at times by the roughness that marks. Whatever the case, these are words that tell a tale both of the people’s violent, sanguinary, bitter pain, as well as of the noble character, dignity, and resoluteness of the freedom fighters who are counted among them.
Yet no words, however strong, can possibly describe the darkness and terrible barbarity of today’s dictators in China, nor the tragic annihilation of Chinese culture that they have perpetrated. Though I have strived to convey these qualities through my writing, having attempted to unveil merely one corner of China’s darkness, I cannot help but feel the futility and frailty of language.
In today’s China, where the forces of incivility run rampant, it is common practice to mock what is beautiful and to beautify what is vile. A pathological China is not ready for what I write. But I hope such a China will soon emerge.
It is my sincerest wish that soon a China will exist where there is no need for chronicling such as mine.
- original report from Broad Book, Inc
Video: “A China More Just”, Asia Talk program by NTDTV, 32’44″
Sarah Cook is a co-editor of the book “A China More Just” by renowned human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng. She shares her insights on the book, as well as her experience getting involved in the campaign to free Gao. Gao Zhisheng is currently being persecuted in China for speaking out on human rights issues there.