USA Today: Chinese journalist jailed for leaking political document

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

USA Today
Calum MacLeod
12:10 p.m. EDT April 18, 2015

BEIJING — A court in China on Friday jailed veteran journalist Gao Yu for seven years on a "state secrets" charge that critics said is further evidence of a worsening crackdown against dissent and rights activists here.

Gao, 71, was sentenced for the crime of "illegally providing state secrets to (institutions) outside (China's) borders," Beijing's No. 3 Intermediate People's Court announced on its verified Sina Weibo account, a micro-blogging platform similar to Twitter. Gao was detained in May and tried in November.

Authorities have not confirmed the nature of the leaked secrets, but Gao's lawyers said the case concerns Gao's leaking a Communist Party communique — known as Document No. 9 — to an overseas website in 2013. This communique warned against "seven perils," including press freedom, civil society, Western-style democracy and the "universal values" of human rights.

Gao will appeal the sentence, her lawyer Shang Baojun told reporters Friday. The crime, which carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment, is illegal under state secret laws that human rights groups complain are arbitrary and deliberately vague to facilitate their use in silencing government critics. The ruling Communist Party maintains firm control over China's judiciary.

(Photo: AP)
"This deplorable sentence against Gao Yu is nothing more than blatant political persecution by the Chinese authorities," said William Nee, China researcher at human rights group Amnesty International, in a statement. "The document Gao Yu is accused of leaking can in no reasonable way be classified as a legitimate state secret."

The growing intolerance of dissent and social activism was highlighted by the recent detention of five Chinese feminists who planned to protest against sexual harassment. After calls for their release from high-profile politicians overseas including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vice President Biden and others, the five were freed Monday but remain on bail and could still be charged.

An outspoken reporter who has not shied away from writing about Chinese politics, Gao was detained for 15 months after the Tiananmen Square democracy protests in 1989. She was subsequently jailed for six years in the mid-1990s on a separate "state secrets" charge. The U.S. government called for her release at a United Nations Human Rights Council session last month.

"We're obviously disappointed with the verdict," Dan Biers, a political affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy, said outside the courthouse on Friday.

The sentence "has heightened our general concern over the situation of human rights defenders in China, particularly journalists and bloggers," said Raphael Droszewski, a representative for the European Union.
The Beijing No. 3 Intermediate People's Court on April 17. (Photo: Calum MacLeod/USA Today)
Access to Chinese courts is rarely granted, and never in politically sensitive cases. Fifteen diplomats tried and failed to enter the courthouse for Gao's sentencing on Friday. Police detained at least one Chinese citizen near the entrance.

Several of Gao's supporters nevertheless risked the security presence to show their concern.

"Gao speaks the truth for China's ordinary people, and the government fears her," saidWang Lijun, outside the court.

"She advocates peace, justice and democracy — all of China's people should be deeply concerned about her," said Lou Zhishu, before police moved them away from reporters.

Both women are petitioners from other provinces who came to Beijing to resolve disputes local courts would not handle.

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