Fri, Jan 20, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Rights lawyer says he is now a target

SURVEILLANCE Gao Zhisheng said the drivers of two cars that were following him home on Tuesday night tried to stage a road accident with the aim of killing him

AP , BEIJING

A prominent Chinese lawyer who has represented Falun Gong followers and clients with complaints of official corruption said yesterday that someone tried to kill him by hitting him with a car and that Chinese security forces might be to blame.

"I've been threatened before," Gao Zhisheng (高智晟) said. "But this time they wanted to kill me."

Gao, 42, was stripped of his law license last month and says his family is under surveillance by security agents.

In a phone interview, he said he was followed by a military vehicle and another car, both with their license plates hidden, as he drove home on Tuesday night from a meeting. He said one car drove in front of him and braked suddenly, forcing him to stop.

``When I got out to see the license plate, the car started coming toward me and tried to hit me,'' Gao said.

He said he was forced to jump into a roadside flowerbed.

Asked whether he knew who tried to hit him, Gao said: ``In the abstract, it's the Chinese Communist Party [CCP], but in reality, I have no idea.''

Gao said the vehicles sped off but returned and followed him as he drove home. He said a newspaper covering the license plate of one car blew off and he recognized the number as belonging to a vehicle that has followed him in the past.

``They disappeared when they saw I had reached my home, where the plainclothes agents were outside,'' Gao said.

An officer at the Public Security Bureau in Beijing said questions would only be answered if a request was faxed to the office. No response was given yesterday.

Gao said the attack on him coincided with the first anniversary of the death of Zhao Ziyang (趙紫陽), the former CCP general-secretary who was ousted in 1989 after sympathizing with pro-democracy protesters around Tiananamen Square.

The government has tried to block public commemorations for Zhao.

"They were worried that I was going to try to go to Zhao's house to pay my respects and they increased security outside my house from 20 to 40 agents," Gao said.

Gao said his wife and 12-year-old daughter -- both of whom are also regularly followed -- had left Beijing and returned to his wife's hometown.

Gao, who works in Beijing, has represented clients who say their land has been seized by corrupt officials and Falun Gong followers who complain of police abuse.

A Christian, Gao has defended members of one of China's underground churches, groups which have not been approved by the government.

Last November, the Beijing Bureau of Justice ordered Gao's 14-lawyer firm to close for one year on the grounds that it failed to inform authorities of an address change.

His law license was confiscated last month.

Also last month, Gao declared he would withdraw from the party.

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