Government Watch / National Security / Politics

Chinese Dissident Becomes “Unperson” in Xi Jinping’s Orwellian China

AMAC Exclusive – By Sen Solis


Former Chinese leader Mao Zedong once remarked that the most lethal weapon of the communist state is not an atomic bomb or torture, but the power to send its enemies into oblivion by erasing them from history. George Orwell expounded upon this same idea in 1984 with the concept of the “unperson” and the obliteration of the very memory of anyone who challenges the authority of the regime. As current Chinese President Xi Jinping continues to tighten his authoritarian grip over the country today, Orwell’s warning and Mao’s insight seem to have become a guidebook for him, as whistleblowers and dissidents face increasingly brutal treatment and are one by one disappearing from public view.

One such victim of Xi’s reign of terror is Gao Zhisheng, a one-time Chinese Communist Party member who eventually converted to Christianity and became of the most high-profile critics of the regime. After years of persecution and torture at the hands of the Chinese government, Gao suddenly disappeared more than five years ago, leaving his family completely in the dark about his condition or whereabouts.

For the Chinese Communist Party, Gao represents the most dangerous of enemies: one who understands first-hand the corruption at the heart of the regime.

Growing up in Shaanxi Province as one of seven children, Gao was unable to afford primary school. Instead, he sat outside a classroom window listening to instruction. With the help of an uncle, he was able to attend secondary school and qualify to join the People’s Liberation Army.

In the early 1990s, Gao became part of a program instituted by then-Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping to train more than 100,000 new lawyers and develop China’s legal system. After passing the bar exam, Gao began practicing, and by 2001 was recognized as one of the 10 best lawyers in the country by China’s Ministry of Justice.

But it was also during this time, as he neared the upper echelons of power, that Gao discovered the rot at the heart of the Chinese regime. The hardships and injustice that the population suffered, Gao learned, were not the consequence of imperialist forces working to tear down China from the outside, but rather were the consequence of the exploitation of the majority of ordinary Chinese people by a privileged CCP elite.

Gao soon became one of the most outspoken voices against ongoing human rights violations inside China. In 2005 he resigned from the Chinese Communist Party in an open letter, specifically citing the CCP’s brutal treatment of practitioners of Falun Gong and Christian religious minorities. It was also around this time that Gao publicly converted to Christianity – another decision that put him at odds with the Chinese government.

Gao attracted a small group of dedicated individuals who, with painstaking effort, did their utmost to defend the rights of the persecuted and often already imprisoned enemies of the regime.

One such enemy of the state was a thirty-four-year-old father of two children whose body weight fell to less than 100 pounds and whose hair turned white due to the immense stress of his treatment at the hands of the secret police. The authorities robbed him of all his belongings, arrested him, imprisoned his children in an orphanage, and sent him twice to a labor camp for three years without a valid reason. In order to imprison the man, the court relied on a document with a signature and fingerprint forged by the secret police. No lawyer wanted to take his case, fearing the wrath of the regime, but Gao boldly stepped forward, only to have the case dismissed by a puppet court. Gao later described that incident in his letter to the Standing Committee announcing that he was leaving the CCP, stating that rule of law does not exist in China.

Gao also made a public appeal to the U.S. Congress to take a stand against oppression inside China by boycotting the 2008 Summer Olympics. He was the spearhead of a grassroots effort to raise awareness about China’s abuses throughout the West which has continued to influence government policy to this day.

However, as is the case with all communist regimes, such heroic acts do not go unpunished. Soon after leaving the communist party, Gao became a top target of the secret police, who followed him and his family everywhere. Several times he was abducted and detained by the secret police, beaten, strangled, and deprived of food, water, light, and sleep for days on end.

In January of 2006, Gao narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. Then, in August of that year, he was arrested while visiting his sister. At the same time, the secret police also detained his wife and children, refusing to tell them why they were being held or where Gao was. Gao would eventually be sentenced to house arrest, where he and his family were watched 24/7 by the police.

Soon after pleading with the U.S. and other Western countries to boycott the 2008 Olympics, Gao was abducted again and subjected to more torture. Around this time, Gao’s wife and two young children, Grace and Peter, were faced with an impossible choice – stay and risk a similar fate, or flee and likely never see Gao again. They chose the latter and were eventually able to receive asylum in the United States in 2009.

Over the next few years, they remained in irregular contact with Gao, as he faced repeated tortures and imprisonments. During his time in prison, Gao was deprived of all rights, including reading books in his cell aside from thick volumes of heavy propaganda like A Compilation of the Theoretical Work of Jiang Zemin, which Gao called “humanity’s most egregious waste of paper.” He was also forced to write weekly reports on his thinking, confessions, breaking with the past, and determination to repent.

Five years ago, however, Gao’s family stopped receiving calls from him. One by one the months ticked by, with no word from their loved one. Gao’s wife, Geng He, has expressed fears that the Chinese government will simply say that Gao died of COVID-19, an increasingly common excuse from the CCP to justify the disappearance of high-profile dissidents as the virus continues to run rampant throughout the country. Though they had Gao under 24-hour surveillance, the CCP feigns that they have no knowledge of his whereabouts.

In his revealing memoir entitled Unwavering Convictions, Gao, whose torturous imprisonment occurred in part during the reign of Hu Jintao, whom the West perceived as “liberal,” emphasizes that the Chinese Communist Party mirrors their Soviet predecessors by being in state of decay. Akin to Moscow in the 1980s, at the height of their domestic oppression and complete crush of dissident movements, with many opposition leaders dying in labor camps, Beijing is presently engaged in persecutions to eradicate any dissent. These behaviors, Gao argues, are the actions of an insecure and weak regime, not a strong one.

Beijing has refused to disclose whether Gao is still alive. But one thing is for sure: despite their best efforts, the CCP did not succeed in obliterating Gao’s memory. While his name may be erased inside China, many throughout the West have continued to press for answers, including his family in the United States. In this way, Mao’s maxim may be turned on its head: the greatest threat to the Chinese Communist Party may not be nuclear weapons or physical violence, but the convictions of a morally righteous people determined to expose the corruption and depravity at the heart of all communist regimes.

Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian, and researcher.

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1 month ago

Watch China, it our future.

James P.
1 month ago

Exchange the word “communist” with “Democrat” and one would know the difference.

William C Smith
1 month ago

Hard to imagine one-and-a-half BILLION people tolerating the tyranny and suppression of just over a million party members and their acolytes—until the military and police forces are factored in. Do those guys have GUNS?

1 month ago

No, they do NOT have guns. Guns were taken away from them many years ago. Only the CCP and their police force, their prisons and China’s myriad of governmental agencies have guns. This is why we need to hold onto our 2nd Amendment rights and not give our guns away.

anna hubert
1 month ago

We also tolerate tyranny and we do have guns The biggest fear of the tyrant is rebellion of the slaves Dissent will not be tolerated

1 month ago

What a coincidence, I have just read 1984 for the first time, and find Biden and the socialist dim’s are following Xi’s example to the extreme. There is no truth except what the present administration deems to be the truth. The past can be erased to meet the needs of the WOKE COMMIES IN CHARGE.

1 month ago

I also admire this heroic man. Yes, he might have shared the fate of millions since CCP practiced controlled disappearance for decades. However, as an author, Gao is an example of outstanding bravery and integrity – I watched a documentary about him. He also helped to establish a new opposition movement that, despite persecution, still exists underground in China.
Yes, we are still ahead of a severe clash with Communist China. Beijing tyrants have never given up their dream of ruling the world. The world can see it now when CCP practices the so-called zero-Covid idea to humiliate its nation further. Neither Congress nor the White House appears to have any plan or strategy. I share the concern and urge of those who called for more focus on this issue. Biden must start to be serious about it.

Michael J
1 month ago

Evil is always lurking and time has not diminished its presence. These power hungry dictators have not become civilized nor humanitarian and history has taught us nothing, except that it’s repeatedly predictable. The United States has become unrecognizable when it aligns itself with those we used to condem.
The only solace I can offer is no one lives forever, but as history proves, there’s always another despot in waiting.

1 month ago
Reply to  Michael J

Yes. These tyrants have never become civilized.

1 month ago
Reply to  George

Not in China, and not here!

2 months ago

He is a man of integrity and outstanding courage, a true future leader that can help bring renewal to China.
I could not stand when U.S. President exchanged niceties with a Chinese tyrant after America suffered so much during the pandemic. But I am also concerned that Washington ignores that existential threat. It is also time for us to demand more arms, high-tech, and training for our army—the highest time to think about home.

1 month ago
Reply to  Bob

I agree with you. I can’t see any reasonable proposition that would resolve this issue.

2 months ago

It is the battle we have to fight – an unfinished Cold War by us. After Reagan, no one was able to carry on his policies. I am glad that Amac reminded us of a heroic Chinese lawyer in the thoughtful article. Yes, we may be in similar circumstances if everything stays the same. Someone in Washington should understand that time for games with Beijing has ended.

2 months ago

Communist China represents everything that our Founders defeated. But we must take seriously our freedom endangered by this last Communist Moloch. I am glad that the author of this timely article told the story of that heroic lawyer. He is in my thoughts and prayers. I am concerned about Washington’s dismissal of the Chinese threat.

1 month ago
Reply to  Phil

Yes, you are absolutely correct.

David Millikan
2 months ago

DICTATOR Beijing biden is following Communist China footsteps.
Take the LIE of bringing back MASK MANDATE for the NEW MADE UP TERM; Long Term COVID. Saying that those in past 2 years having hard time recovering because millions are not wearing a mask.
FACT: MORE people died from China Virus that were FULLY vaccinated in August, 2022.
This is about CONTROL and NOT science. DICTATOR Beijing biden stated the China Virus pandemic is over so WHY trying to FORCE US into wearing MASKS when EVERYONE KNOWS they DON’T WORK and DID NOT STOP ONE SINGLE CASE OF CHINA VIRUS.

2 months ago

The author writes “After years of persecution and torture at the hands of the Chinese government, Gao suddenly disappeared more than five years ago, leaving his family completely in the dark about his condition or whereabouts.” Well duh!!! Literally hundreds of thousands of people have been “disappeared” by the CCP in China in the last decade alone. That is how the CCP keeps the masses in check through constant fear of what the government may do to you. That is what the Chinese Communist Party does to anyone who dares speak out again the status quo in a public way. It’s called rounding them up in the dead of night and then killing them. Communism is a brutal ideology enforced through terrorizing the population into submission. Anyone “disappeared” immediately ceases to exist as far as the Party and official records will indictate. At least that is how it has worked so far to date by all public accounts. Anyone asking too many questions risks suffering the same fate.

1 month ago
Reply to  PaulE

Yes, but Gao Zhisheng and his close friend Liu Xiaobo were the prominent leaders of the Chinese opposition. They were crucial for the Chinese and the West.
Both, for instance, wrote extensively about the Chinese Communist Party’s anti-corruption efforts explaining that concept which differs significantly from our understanding of corruption and anti-corruption policies. In China, like in Communist countries, anti-corruption is a purge of the rivals in the ruling group.

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