China jails out­spo­ken jour­nal­ist, 71, for 7 years


A Chi­nese court on Fri­day con­victed a 71-year-old jour­nal­ist of leak­ing state se­crets and jailed her for seven years, it said, with rights groups con­demn­ing the “ar­bi­trary” ver­dict as a “blow to free ex­pres­sion.”

Gao Yu — named one of the In­ter­na­tional Press In­sti­tute’s 50 “world press he­roes” in 2000 — “il­le­gally pro­vided state se­crets to for­eign­ers,” Bei­jing’s No. 3 In­ter­me­di­ate Peo­ple’s Court said on a ver­i­fied so­cial me­dia ac­count.

The rul­ing said that Gao had leaked a 2013 di­rec­tive by the rul­ing Com­mu­nist party named “Doc­u­ment num­ber 9” to a Hong Kong me­dia out­let.

The doc­u­ment warns of the “dan­gers” of mul­ti­party democ­racy, in­de­pen­dent me­dia, “uni­ver­sal” def­i­ni­tions of hu­man rights, and crit­i­cism of the party’s his­tor­i­cal record, ac­cord­ing to copies widely cir­cu­lated on­line.

“We are very dis­ap­pointed with this ver­dict,” said Shang Bao­jun, one of her lawyers, who ar­gued in court that a “con­fes­sion” from Gao had been ex­tracted af­ter threats were made against her son.

Gao is “the vic­tim of vaguely worded and ar­bi­trary state-se­cret laws that are used against ac­tivists as part of the au­thor­i­ties’ attack on free­dom of ex­pres­sion,” said Wil­liam Nee, a re­searcher for Bri­tain-based Amnesty In­ter­na­tional.

Known for her out­spo­ken sup­port for democ­racy and press free­dom, Gao went miss­ing last April and resur­faced on China’s state broad­caster a month later ad­mit­ting she had made a “mis­take.”

Shang said the main ev­i­dence pre­sented at Gao’s trial in Novem­ber was a “con­fes­sion” she made af­ter po­lice threat­ened the jour­nal­ist’s son — who they had also de­tained.

He added that af­ter the ver­dict was read out Gao stated in a “strong voice” that she would ap­peal, but was not al­lowed to make any fur­ther state­ment.

The court de­nied the de­fence ac­cess to doc­u­ments used to con­vict her, the lawyer said. The sep­tua- genar­ian suf­fers from high blood pres­sure and Shang added he was “very wor­ried” about her health.

‘Blow to free ex­pres­sion’

Her po­lit­i­cal writ­ings saw her jailed for six years in the 1990s, also on a charge of “leak­ing state se­crets.”

She was de­tained again in the lead-up to the Tianan­men crack­down’s 25th an­niver­sary last year, as were dozens of other gov­ern­ment crit­ics, and her one-day trial was con­ducted in se­cret.

Pros­e­cu­tors said that a re­searcher af­fil­i­ated with China’s agri­cul­ture min­istry gave Gao a copy of “Doc­u­ment num­ber 9” in 2013, ac­cord­ing to a copy of the ver­dict posted on­line by friends of Gao and con­firmed to AFP by Shang.

The pros­e­cu­tion said she had used the on­line telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions tool Skype to trans­fer the doc­u­ment to Ho Pin, head of Hong Kong-based pub­lish­ing house Mir­ror Books, one of many out­lets which has re­leased the text in the last two years.

Mir­ror Books de­nied re­ceiv­ing the doc­u­ment from Gao in a state­ment posted on­line Fri­day.

The U.S. said last year it was “deeply con­cerned” by the crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings against Gao.

Her ar­rest “was part of an ef­fort to in­tim­i­date and si­lence jour­nal­ists and ac­tivists” ahead of the Tianan­men an­niver­sary, the U.S. chap­ter of free speech group PEN In­ter­na­tional said in a state­ment.

The ver­dict was “an­other blow to free ex­pres­sion and press free­dom in China,” it added.

Bei­jing’s for­eign min­istry spokesman Hong Lei said the case had been han­dled “in ac­cor­dance with the law.”

“This is a mat­ter of China’s in­ter­nal sovereignty,” he told re­porters.

Ahead of the rul­ing, France­based Re­porters with­out Bor­ders said it would be a gauge of “how far the Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties are ready to go in or­der to sup­press those who speak with an in­de­pen­dent voice.”

The group ranked China 176th out of 180 coun­tries in its 2015 Press Free­dom In­dex.


Anti-Bei­jing pro­test­ers hold pic­tures of jailed vet­eran Chi­nese jour­nal­ist Gao Yu dur­ing a rally out­side Chi­nese cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s li­ai­son of­fice in Hong Kong on Fri­day, April 17.

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