Mr Gao said he had been through cruel experiences
Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng has reappeared in Beijing, saying he is giving up his campaigning so he can reunite with his family.
Mr Gao spoke at a news conference more than a year after he was arrested and disappeared, sparking international concern.
He had previously been charged with subversion by Beijing.
Mr Gao said he knew his decision would disappoint many, but that he wanted to have "relative control" over his life.
"I don't have the capacity to persevere... You know the main basis for choosing to give up is for the sake of family feelings," he told the Associated Press news agency.
"I hope I can reunite with them. My children need me by their side growing up," he said in the interview, at a Beijing tea house near his flat, AP said.
Looking visibly thinner than before his disappearance, Mr Gao, 44, said he had been through cruel experiences but wanted to put the past behind him.
To me these are the three dearest people in the world and now, we're like a kite with a broken string
It is still unclear if Mr Gao has been freed or if he is still under police surveillance or even detention, says the BBC's Damian Grammaticas in Beijing.
His wife and two children, who have been harassed and persecuted by Chinese authorities, fled China last year and are now in New York, our correspondent adds.
After first vanishing in January 2009, he briefly reappeared at his family's home in Shaanxi province the following month - accompanied by people believed to be security officials.
The AP said he appeared tearful at times when the subject turned to his family and he described seeing their shoes when he returned to his Beijing flat for the first time on Tuesday.
"I completely lost control of my emotions, because to me these are the three dearest people in the world and now, we're like a kite with a broken string," he told AP.
Mr Gao ran into trouble when he started to defend some of China's most disadvantaged groups, such as supporters of the banned spiritual movement, Falun Gong.
His law practice was closed down in 2005. The government said one problem was that the lawyer had failed to tell officials of a change of address.
The following year he was given a suspended prison sentence for "inciting subversion".
Mr Gao implied that he had struck a compromise with Chinese authorities, giving up political activism in order to be in contact with his family, AP notes.