[JURIST] In his first interview since being released from prison to house arrest in August 2014, leading Chinese rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng told the Associated Press [AP report] that he was subject to torture. Zhisheng revealed that while he was held in a Chinese prison from 2010-14 he was tortured with an electric baton to his face and spent three years in solitary confinement. Zhisheng is a prominent figure for the civil rights movement in China, advocating constitutional reform and arguing landmark cases to defend property rights and political and religious dissenters. His wife and two children fled [JURIST report] China around the time he first disappeared and now live in the US, but the Nobel Peace Prize nominee vowed to never leave China despite the hardships and having to live apart from his family.
China has faced international criticism for its handling of political dissidents. In July China's state media criticized [JURIST report] detained human rights lawyers for actions it says undermine the rule of law. The crackdown on human rights lawyers comes as part of a larger push by President Xi Jinping [BBC profile] to discredit the rights defense movement which has been challenging the government through protests and litigation. In May Chinese prosecutors said [JURIST report] that prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang had officially been indicted on charges of fanning ethnic hatred and provoking trouble for comments that he posted online. He had already been detained for one year. Since the beginning of the crackdown [JURIST report], human rights groups as well as the U.S. Department of State have urged China to release those engaged in the peaceful protests and criticism.