|Gao Zhisheng, missing since February 2009, says he is living in northern China. (Reuters/ File 2006)|
BEIJING — A dissident Chinese lawyer who was missing for more than a year resurfaced yesterday, saying he is living in northern China and wants only to spend time with his family away from media attention.
Twitter messages appeared yesterday saying Gao Zhisheng’s family had been in touch with him and listed his phone number. It was the first contact that friends, family, and reporters have had with Gao since he disappeared on Feb. 4, 2009, from his hometown in central China.
Before being jailed and effectively muzzled four years ago, Gao was a dauntless civil liberties lawyer. He took on sensitive cases involving underground Christians and the banned Falun Gong spiritual group and was also an advocate of reform.
The United States and the European Union had called on China to investigate his disappearance. Chinese authorities gave vague explanations about Gao’s whereabouts, heightening worries that he had been jailed or tortured, as he was previously.
Contacted briefly on his cellphone, Gao said he is living in Wutai Shan, a mountain range famous as a Buddhist retreat, and that he is “free at present.’’
“I just want to be in peace and quiet for a while and be reunited with my family,’’ Gao said. “Most people belong with family, I have not been with mine for a long time.’’
Gao declined to answer further questions, saying he was not allowed by law, nor was he willing, to accept media interviews. Bans on interviews are often a condition of parole. Gao was arrested in August 2006, convicted at a one-day trial, and placed under house arrest. State media said he was accused of subversion on the basis of nine articles posted on foreign websites.