Chinese dissident alive

Prominent Chinese human rights
lawyer Gao Zhisheng, missing for more than a year after being detained by
police, has spoken to Western journalists.

He said he was living near Wutai
mountain, a Buddhist landmark in northern Shanxi province.

“I want to live a quiet life
for a while,” Mr. Gao said by phone.

The BBC’s Michael Bristow in
Beijing said there are still many questions about Mr Gao’s situation and the
latest news only serves to deepen the mystery.

The lawyer told Reuters news agency
he had been released six months ago. He was abducted by police from a
relative’s house in February 2009.

It is not clear if he has been able
to call his family, including his wife and two children who sought political
asylum in the US last year, or whether he made the calls under any form of
supervision.

Reuters said it had taken steps to
verify Mr. Gao’s identity.

Another human rights lawyer, Li
Heping, said he had also spoken briefly to Mr. Gao on Sunday.

His disappearance has sparked
international concern, with calls from the US, the UK and the European Union
for China to investigate his disappearance.

“Most people belong with
family, I have not been with mine for a long time. This is a mistake and I want
to correct this mistake,” Mr. Gao told the Associated Press news agency.

Mr. Gao told AP he was not allowed
to accept media interviews.

Friend and fellow lawyer Mr. Li
told the BBC that Mr. Gao had not seemed at ease to explain himself, say where
he was exactly or when he would be able to contact family and friends in the
future.

‘Torture’

Mr. Gao, a self-taught lawyer, was
once a member of the Chinese Communist Party. In 2001 he was acclaimed as one
of the 10 best lawyers in the country by a publication run by the Ministry of
Justice.

But he ran into trouble when he
started to defend some of China’s most disadvantaged groups, such as supporters
of the banned spiritual movement, Falun Gong.

Mr. Gao’s law practice was closed
down in 2005. The government said one problem was that the lawyer had failed to
tell officials of a change of address.

The following year he was given a
suspended prison sentence for “inciting subversion”.

He has previously said he had been
tortured while in detention.

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