BEIJING – In a rare interview, Chinese dissident lawyer Gao Zhisheng talked with The Associated Press on the eve of the launch in Hong Kong of his memoir, using a messaging app to circumvent the constant surveillance he lives under.
Gao, whose accounts of torture while in the custody of Chinese authorities triggered international criticism of Beijing, discussed his efforts to circumvent his minders and the faith and hope that sustain him. He also described a long-standing dental problem that he says he can't fix because the security services are blocking treatment.
Some edited excerpts from Monday night's interview:
AP: How is your health now? Have you been able to see doctors, or access medical treatment?
GAO: I still have problems with my teeth. This place has become the front line of my personal battleground against the government. My relatives tried to take me three times to see a dentist, but we were sent back by local thugs. I am under surveillance all the time.
AP: How do you communicate with the outside world? How do you make ends meet?
GAO: I do not have a computer, and of course I don't have access to the internet. I have been using cellphones — I bought three different cards, but the numbers were halted as soon as (the minders) found out I was using them. I cannot work, but fortunately I don't need to worry about a livelihood, thanks to my brother, whose land is very fertile.
AP: In your book, you mention your faith and your religion, Christianity. What role does your faith play in your life?
GAO: Every time I've been in trouble, my religion was always there as a source of strength. All the difficulties I've experienced have drawn me closer to my faith and religion. I am a person of faith; a person of faith is never lonely, never weak. I think God gives me a lot of strength.
AP: What are your wishes at the moment? Do you wish to reunite with your family? Would you choose to leave China if you could?
GAO: Of course I wish to reunite with my family; I also wish to be able to work again as a lawyer. But I know that as long as the Communist Party is in power, all these things will not be possible. My ultimate wish is that democracy and a constitutional political system will be established in China, so we can all live in a normal country.
I think change is about to happen here. I know this is not easy to understand, but staying here is the price we need to pay in order to be able to be part of the change.