It’s a new day for China’s Communist leadership, but not for the dissidents the government imprisons. They linger in remote jails, beaten, forgotten, and cut off from work, fellowship, friends, and family. WORLD’s 2012 Daniels of the Year are these outspoken Chinese Christians and their long-suffering loved ones.

For Gao Zhisheng’s family, visiting the imprisoned Christian at his remote exile in western China takes days.

Gao’s father-in-law and older brother made the trek in January: The pair rode a train nearly 2,000 miles from Shaanxi Province into the craggy mountains of the desert region of Xinjiang after obtaining clearance from prison officials to visit Gao. Then they took a public bus to its last stop, where they hired a motorcycle driver to travel the lone road to Shaya Prison, where the dissident has been jailed. When the father and son reached the first security checkpoint, a guard delivered cruel news: Despite official assurance to the family, no one could see Gao.

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