Gao Yu, a 71-year-old Chinese journalist, was sentenced to seven years in prison after a court in Beijing found her guilty of leaking state secrets abroad. According to her lawyer and brother, Ms. Gao plans to appeal.
Ms. Gao’s lawyers and supporters maintain that the charge of leaking state secrets abroad is absurd, because the Communist Party directive she is accused of leaking had been widely summarized on government websites. The directive, called “Document No. 9,” laid out curbs on the spread of western democracy, universal values, civil society, and press freedom in China.
Since 1979 Gao Yu has reported for numerous media outlets. Her career-long dedication to promoting media freedom earned her many awards, including the 2000 International Press Institute World Press Freedom Hero Award. Her work, however, also resulted in multiple imprisonments beginning in 1989 after the Tiananmen Square massacre.
In 1993, Ms. Gao was convicted on charges of leaking state secrets and sentenced to six years in prison. Most recently Gao Yu was detained April 24, 2014, in advance of the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. Although Gao Yu appeared on national television on May 8, 2014, confessing to leaking state secrets, she subsequently denied those charges and claimed her televised “confession” was made under duress.
Following the announcement of Gao Yu’s seven-year sentence April 17, 2015, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf called on Chinese authorities to release Ms. Gao immediately and to respect China’s international human rights commitments. She told reporters, “the United States is deeply concerned that Chinese journalist Gao Yu has been convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison after a closed trial on charges of leaking state secrets to a foreign news outlet.”
She further noted that Ms. Gao’s conviction is part of a disturbing pattern of government action against public interest lawyers, including Pu Zhiqiang; activists, like the five women arrested for planning to protest against sexual harassment; and journalists, religious leaders, and others who peacefully question official Chinese policies and actions.