Human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has spent eight years in a Chinese prison, may be set free Aug. 7, according to family members.
On July 12, Gao's wife, Geng He, spoke to Radio Free Asia, a non-profit media outlet that receives US government funding, saying she spoke with Gao's older brother who revealed the news of the pending release.
According to an English transcript of program translated by China Aid's Bob Fu, Geng He said, "I talked to his older brother on the phone last night. He said that he finally got through to Shaya Prison by phone and asked, 'When can you allow us to visit Gao Zhisheng?' The person answering the call said, 'No need to come to visit him. He will be released on Aug. 7 after finishing his time in prison.'
"His older brother said, 'But we still need to pick him up from prison.' The person said, 'The prison will need to communicate with Beijing about the specifics of his release. You just wait for further notice at home.' That's all we've heard so far."
In 2006, Chinese officials arrested Gao, who often defended the religious freedoms of minorities within the country, for "inciting subversion of state power."
Following his release in 2007, Gao documented the torture he endured in prison in an article titled "Dark Night, Dark Hood, Kidnapping by Dark Mafia" which gained international attention when it was published in 2009. He was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize after writing his book, "A China More Just" that same year.
Gao's writings were denounced by the Chinese government as "subversive, and he was once again arrested by state police and placed in a prison in a remote part of Western China. Gao's wife and family escaped to the United States, and did not hear from him until 18 months ago, reports Christianity Today.
"Given that the overall rule of law in China has been taking a significant backslide in the past few months, we are deeply concerned about attorney Gao's situation," Fu commented.
However, he warned the Chinese government of the unwise nature of continuing to hold the lawyer against his will.
"In August, if the authorities continue to force him into 'disappearance' or take actions to limit his freedom, it will cause an angry response from the whole world," he noted.
"Many people across the globe care about attorney Gao. I have attended meetings in more than a dozen of different regions in America this year, big or small, and every time when I spoke at a meeting, many American people in the audience would ask, 'How is brother Gao doing?' 'How is attorney Gao doing?' They are all anticipating his release."
Many fear that even if Gao is released, China's police will continue to restrict his mobility.
Sun Lin, a journalist who has followed Gao's case closely for several years, said the lawyer would likely be held under house arrest even after the end of his jail term. "Based on his high profile and the background of his cases, I think the authorities will place more curbs on him if he is freed than they do on us," Sun said. "The authorities will certainly want to keep a very strict eye on him, because of his personality," he added.