American Board of Trial Advocates Presents Courageous Advocacy Award to Chinese Human Rights Activist Gao Zhisheng

Jun 28, 2007, 01:00 ET from American Board of Trial Advocates

    SANTA BARBARA, Calif., June 28 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Board of
 Trial Advocates, a national organization of preeminent trial lawyers, will
 present its third Courageous Advocacy Award to Chinese human rights
 activist Gao Zhisheng June 30.
     The American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) is a national association
 of more than 6,300 experienced judges and trial lawyers. ABOTA bestows the
 award periodically to a judge or advocate anywhere in the world who has
 demonstrated courage in the performance of duty and a strict adherence to
 the rule of law, even at great risk to personal freedom and safety.
     The recipient will not be present to accept the award. Gao Zhisheng and
 members of his family are under house arrest in Beijing, China. This
 champion of human rights has not been allowed to practice law since 2005,
 and dozens of plainclothes state police officers follow him and members of
 his family wherever they go.
     Gao is one of a small number of lawyers willing to handle high-profile
 human rights cases involving rural land rights, labor activists and
 religious freedom. He has championed the cause of thousands of Chinese
 citizens forcibly relocated for the construction of a massive dam and
 reservoir, as well as the families of miners killed in a 2004 coal mine
     In the last few years, cases of Falun Gong practitioners -- who are
 persecuted for attempting to bring uncensored information to China through
 the Internet -- started to mount on his desk. But lawyers are not allowed
 to defend Falun Gong cases in China. After repeated legal efforts went
 nowhere, Gao directly appealed to his country's top leaders -- Hu Jintao
 and Wen Jiabao -- in open letters.
     These courageous attempts to gain redress from Chinese government
 officials and the courts led to the loss of his practice and current house
 arrest. As the Editor-in-Chief of Chinascope magazine, Zongi Hu, stated in
 the February 2006 issue, " ... this ordinary citizen is reaching far more
 people than the Chinese communist government ever expected, or even more
 than the regime can reach itself."
     Gao remains unafraid of consequences: "I am a warrior who does not care
 whether he lives or dies. Such sacrifice will be nothing to me if it speeds
 the death of this dictatorship."
     A statement released by the Global Association for Supporting Gao
 Zhisheng, an alliance of more than 119 organizations, captured the essence
 of his contribution: "Attorney Gao has given his all in the Chinese
 non-violent [rights protection] movement. He is the symbol for human rights
 in China, and he represents the Chinese conscience."
     Accepting the Courageous Advocacy Award for Gao Zhisheng will be Sherry
 Zhang, of the Sound of Hope Radio Network. The Sound of Hope Radio Network
 is a news and entertainment broadcast service offering a unique perspective
 on Asian culture and its people.
     "We are all hopeful that Gao's courage in standing up to the communist
 regime will bring about positive change for the Chinese people in the area
 of human rights," said Lewis R. Sifford of Dallas, National ABOTA
 President. "We hope that the constitutional rights we enjoy here in
 America, such as freedom of speech and religion, will spread throughout
 China and provide a better quality of life for all people in that nation.
     "A lawyer like Gao and other brave human rights attorneys can certainly
 give the Chinese people the incentive to push for equality and freedom in
 many aspects of their lives. Without lawyers like Gao, these needed changes
 are unlikely to occur," Sifford continued.
     Gao Zhisheng also has been nominated for the 2007 Nobel Prize for Peace
 for his fearless support of human rights in China. The nomination was
 jointly made by two highly respected Canadian lawyers, David Matas and
 David Kilgour.
     David Matas is Senior Legal Counsel to B'nai Brith Canada. Matas has
 been actively involved in human rights issues and has received many awards
 and honors from Jewish organizations, the legal community and a wide
 variety of other groups. He is an accomplished author, having published
 several books and manuscripts. His most recent, Bloody Words: Hate and Free
 Speech, was published in 2000.
     David Kilgour is one of the three longest-serving MPs in the Canadian
 House of Commons.
     He has represented Canada abroad on numerous occasions, most recently
 as a member of the Canadian delegation to Rwanda in commemoration of the
 10th anniversary of the genocide in that nation.
     ABOTA has presented the Courageous Advocacy Award on two other
 occasions. It was presented in 1999 at the ABOTA International Meeting in
 Florence, Italy, as a collective award to 24 lawyers and judges who gave
 their lives in the pursuit of justice under the law.
     A second Courageous Advocacy Award was given at the ABOTA International
 Meeting in 2003 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in memory of 13 judges,
 barristers and solicitors who were maimed or murdered while showing
 extraordinary courage and unwavering commitment to the rule of law during
 the political and social unrest in that country.
     Founded in 1958, ABOTA is a national association of experienced trial
 lawyers and judges. ABOTA and its members are dedicated to the preservation
 and promotion of the civil jury trial right provided by the Seventh
 Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
     The Foundation of ABOTA is an affiliated charitable entity, the mission
 of which is to support the purposes of ABOTA through education and
 research. ABOTA membership consists of more than 6,300 lawyers and judges
 spread among 93 Chapters in all 50 States and the District of Columbia.
 ABOTA publishes Voir Dire magazine, which features in-depth articles on
 current and historical issues related to constitutional rights, in
 particular the Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury.
     For more information contact:
     Brian Tyson at (800)932-2682

SOURCE American Board of Trial Advocates