BEIJING (AP) — Prominent Chinese dissident Gao Zhisheng has been out of contact for three days since voicing support for a fellow activist who was sentenced to prison last week, his wife said Wednesday.
Gao, a lawyer who defended members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, has been under tight surveillance since his release from jail in the summer of 2014. His latest disappearance could indicate he is being punished for again speaking out.
A police officer in the Shaanxi province village where Gao lives hung up the telephone the moment his name was mentioned. Subsequent calls rang unanswered.
Gao's wife Geng He, who lives in the United States, said her daily contact with Gao was severed Sunday and that later calls resulted in a message that his number no longer existed.
Gao's elderly brother, Gao Zhiyi, hung up after a brief phone conversation with The Associated Press on Wednesday, saying: "We cannot say anything."
Gao, 51, has been under some form of detention for most of the last decade, during which time he says he suffered torture and abuse.
In an online article dated Saturday, Gao praised fellow activist Yang Maodong for his courage against the authorities and his peaceful stance to bring about changes to China.
Gao called Yang, better known by his penname Guo Feixiong, a "close friend" and said Yang's closing statement before a court to defend his innocence last week was "epic."
Yang was jailed for his activism, including his efforts to organize a rally for press freedom outside the newspaper Southern Weekly in January 2013, when journalists complained of censorship.
In the article carried by several overseas Chinese-language news sites, Gao described Chinese President Xi Jinping as a "cruel" man and called on more people to join the peaceful fight against the authoritarian state.
Geng said she believed Gao's latest article was the reason for his disappearance.
"When I read the article, I said, 'oh, it's for this reason,'" Geng said.