Gao, a 44-year-old Christian lawyer, was once considered a poster boy attorney for the Chinese Communist Party. In recent years, he turned to human rights cases, defending Christians, Uyghurs, Falun Gong members and other victims of abuse.
In 2006, Gao was convicted of subversion and given a suspended sentence of three years in prison. After that he was immediately placed under house arrest where he stayed until February 2009, when he was taken away by police. Since then, his whereabouts have been unknown.
Yesterday, he called a number of foreign reporters to say he was alive, staying at a sacred mountain in northern China, under house arrest at a government facility, as is often the case for dissidents, underground Catholic bishops and other people Beijing deems undesirable.
In the phone call, Gao said he was in Shanxi province and wanted some time to be on his own. When asked if he intended to reunite with his family, he said it was not something easy to do.
According to dissident friends, Gao was probably under close police monitoring and so could not say much on the phone.