March 12, 2009
Mr Edward McMillan-Scott MEP (Yorkshire & Humber, Conservative), a European Parliament Vice-President, the longest-serving member of its Foreign Affairs Committee and the UK's most senior MEP, is relieved that the family of Gao Zisheng, the respected Christian human rights lawyer, taken and imprisoned again in early February 2009, has arrived safely in the United States. McMillan-Scott, who has been following the escape of Geng He and her children, her 16-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son and appealed to the Thai government for their quick release to the United States, said in Strasbourg today:
"This is good news for Gao's family, but it increases the danger that he is in. While his beloved family has finally found freedom and safety, his peril at the hands of a brutal and paranoid regime has deepened. I have spoken this morning with EU external affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, urging her to intervene directly with the Chinese authorities to release Gao and allow him to join his family in the USA, and to seek guarantees that he will not be harmed.”
Gao was arrested after writing an open letter to Mr McMillan-Scott in September 2007. The two men had frequent telephone conversations after McMillan-Scott's last visit to Beijing in May 2006.
Gao took up the cases of a number of Falun Gong practitioners and in 2005 conducted an enquiry into the persecution of this spiritual group.
McMillan-Scott wrote to Prime Minister Gordon Brown after Gao's first arrest and imprisonment. He also features on the list of ‘prisoners of conscience’ which forms part of the UK and EU’s human rights dialogue with China.
McMillan-Scott said, “I have been campaigning privately and publicly for his release, especially after he was repeatedly tortured to the point where he twice tried to commit suicide. His priority has been to get his family out. It is now our priority to get him out as he must be freed to join his family in the US.”