'Gao Yu Was Just Doing Her Job'

A commentary by Bao Tong
2015-03-30
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A file photo of Chinese journalist Gao Yu speaking at a press conference in Hong Kong.
A file photo of Chinese journalist Gao Yu speaking at a press conference in Hong Kong.
AFP

Journalist Gao Yu was secretly detained last April 24 by the police, and charged with "leaking state secrets overseas."

But they found it hard to bring the case, and so it dragged on for another six months. A trial was held on Nov. 21, but they still didn't reach a verdict, and things dragged on still further, past the legal time limit, until the court announced that it was unable to reach a verdict.

There have been two recent developments:

1. The Supreme People's Court has approved an application by the Intermediate People's Court to extend Gao's detention by three months longer than the legally stipulated time limit.

2. The Intermediate People's Court has rejected an application by Gao's defense lawyer for a "change in coercive measures" as allowed by law, and also an application for medical parole, with the result that this septuagenarian journalist and grandmother, who is highly respected both at home and overseas, is compelled to suffer further torture and torment, day in, day out, because the authorities can't make up their minds what her crime is.

Gao Yu recited a poem in prison by Qing dynasty scholar and reformer Weng Tonghe, changing only one word, that expresses her situation clearly:

"Seventy years of involvement in world affairs, and my life ends in desolation. But I won't show you my tears."

So Gao has come to terms with this. Of course, because you won't find nice words like "lucky" in the dictionary of martyrs who face fear and cold without flinching.

Test of 'rule of law'

Of course, these developments don't just concern Gao Yu. They are also a test of whether or not China's [ruling] Communist Party will genuinely implement the "rule of law" theme of the fourth plenum, and of whether or not there is such a thing as a People's "Republic" of China.

Speaking frankly, I'd say that this is precisely why this case has been so hard to judge, and why it has dragged on for so long and been so unpredictable.

Put bluntly, the case against Gao Yu for the so-called "leaking of state secrets overseas" is nothing more than a case of Gao Yu fulfilling the sacred duty of a journalist, by telling the public the facts about Document No. 9, which was issued by the office of the Communist Party central committee in 2013.

I hear that she is regarded as "smearing the name of the central committee," "vilifying the party," and "causing irreparable damage to the reputation of both party and country."

Do these charges really stand up?

If Gao Yu had spread disinformation; if she had forged Document No. 9, than of course it would be right to charge her with smearing the name of party and state.

The problem is that the government has already said quite truthfully that Gao leaked, rather than forged, Document No. 9, confirming that her reports about it were totally accurate.

She didn't deceive her readers, nor did she frame the central committee office for something it didn't do.

Judging Document No. 9

If Document No. 9 is a good government document, then Gao Yu's report was helping the party with its propaganda work. They should be thanking her for her meritorious service.

Rather, the central committee office should be in the dock for "irreparable damage to the reputation of party and state," and they should bear the burden of criminal responsibility. As a journalist, Gao Yu has committed no crime.

Fully aware of the facts, the central committee office, as plaintiffs, have set up a journalist to take the rap for them. Such chaos is utterly ridiculous and staggering.

An appraisal of Document No. 9 should be a prerequisite for any trial of Gao Yu or of the central committee office.

The Gao Yu case has naturally attracted great public interest, and the details of this invisible Document No. 9 should be closely read and widely disseminated.

The people are watching. They are concerned about the authenticity of the "rule of law" directive of the fourth party plenum, and about the "republic" part of the People's Republic of China. They want to know if there is any humanity left at all in this great civilization of ours.

We will all be watching.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

Bao Tong, political aide to the late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.

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