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China official says missing rights lawyer 'where he should be'

[JURIST] Chinese Foreign Ministry [official website, in Chinese] spokesman Ma Zhaoxu [official profile] stated in a press conference Thursday that Chinese human rights lawyer and activist Gao Zhisheng [JURIST news archive] is "where he should be." Ma stated that holding Gao in Chinese custody since February 2009 comports with the law. The official version of the press conference transcript [text, Chinese] omitted the exchange between the media and Ma over Gao's situation. Chinese authorities have shown reticence to discuss Gao's case, but made the recent statements under mounting demands [JURIST report] from rights groups that Gao be located after being reported missing since September.

Gao drew international attention in September 2007 when he wrote a letter [JURIST report] to the US Congress requesting assistance in improving human rights in China. Gao, who has also defended Christians and coal miners in China, claimed [AP report] that he was tortured after his arrest in 2007. Gao was originally part of the Chinese Communist Party and handled prominent cases involving the outlawed Falun Gong movement [Falun Dafa website], but fell into disfavor with the government in 2006 when he was convicted of subversion [JURIST report] and placed under house arrest. China has long received criticism [JURIST news archive] from watchdog groups for its treatment of rights activists such as Gao.

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