The sudden arrest and disappearance of Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng in February 2009 has prompted the sustained attention of nations, organizations, and people around the globe, including Professor Jerome Cohen, whose work has focused on the rule of law in China for half a century. A vocal critic of the Chinese government’s alleged human rights abuses, Cohen spoke on February 17 with Atticus Gannaway, senior writer of the NYU School of Law magazine, about the Gao Zhisheng case and its broader implications for China and the world community.

“Why they’ve gone after him in this way, like a Latin American dictatorship ‘disappearing’ people, is hard to say,” Cohen said. “This will be a most unattractive precedent.... You can’t just do away with a human life. You’ve got to observe some basic decencies.”

Cohen discussed his belief that the Chinese government has failed to carry out its own criminal and criminal procedure laws, and advocated continuing pressure on China until it addresses global concerns about the disappearance of Gao Zhisheng: “I want everyone who has contact with a Chinese government official to ask about the Gao case.... I want it to come up constantly until it becomes such an annoyance that the Chinese government will see the world is not going to forget the case. We’re not going to walk away from this.”

Posted on February 19, 2010