China: Deplorable prison sentence against prominent journalist an attack on press freedom
The sentencing of the highly respected journalist Gao Yu to seven years in jail by a Chinese court is an affront to justice and an attack on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said on Friday.
Gao Yu, 71, was found guilty by a court in Beijing of the spurious charge of “disclosing state secrets”. Her trial in November was held behind closed doors. Her lawyer has said she will appeal against the sentence.
“This deplorable sentence against Gao Yu is nothing more than blatant political persecution by the Chinese authorities. She 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, China researcher at Amnesty International.
“Gao Yu is a prisoner of conscience, solely imprisoned for challenging the views of the government. She should be released immediately and unconditionally.”
The government has not disclosed any details about the alleged “state secret” that Gao Yu is accused of sharing beyond it being “a document”. It is widely believed to be an internal Communist Party ideological paper, known as Document No. 9.
In the document, freedom of the press and “universal values”, such as freedom, democracy and human rights, come under severe attack.
“The document Gao Yu is accused of leaking can in no reasonable way be classified as a legitimate state secret. To the authorities’ immense embarrassment, Gao Yu laid bare the Communist Party’s outright hostility to human rights, and for that she is being severely punished,” said William Nee.
"The assault on human rights outlined in Document No. 9 has all but served as a blueprint for the Chinese government. This is one of the worst crackdowns against rights activists in more than a decade."
Gao Yu’s unfair trial was marred by repeated irregularities, including Gao Yu initially being denied access to her lawyer.
In May last year, state television CCTV broadcast a “confession” by Gao Yu. However, her lawyers say the statement was obtained illegally, since the authorities had also detained her son, she felt threatened and was under intense psychological pressure at the time. She also did not know that her confession would be televised.
“Gao Yu’s TV ’confession’ proves nothing and only underscores the fact there was little chance of her receiving a fair trial,” said William Nee.
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