Since 2005, Gao has been repeatedly arrested, imprisoned and severely tortured by Chinese authorities, mostly for his human rights work. In 2006, he and a group of prominent human rights lawyers created the Association of Human Rights Attorneys for Chinese Christians. That same year, Gao was sentenced to five years of probation for inciting “subversion of the state.” After serving three years in prison, Gao was supposedly released on probation but he disappeared for extended periods of time.
In 2007, he was arrested and spent over 50 days behind bars where he was tortured. “I was beaten so badly that my whole body began shaking uncontrollably on the floor,” Gao wrote in an open letter.
Gao last reappeared out of police custody in April 2010. He told the Associated Press that he had been shunted between detention centers, farmhouses and apartments across northern China. Security forces repeatedly abused him, beating him with electric batons, pistol-whipping him and holding burning cigarettes close to his eyes.
“Not only is it now extremely difficult for me to make my voice heard, but it is also extremely dangerous,” Gao wrote in an essay in 2009. “In the past three-plus years, the authorities invested a great deal of manpower, physical resources and funds, and employed the most merciless methods, to achieve their goal of silencing me.”