WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 - U.S.-based scholar Gao Zhan, jailed for five months in China before she was expelled from the country in July, on Monday broadcast the first of what will be a regular on-air column for Radio Free Asia (RFA). Gao's column, "Women's Forum," will air periodically on RFA's Mandarin service, and it will primarily address women's issues. "The status of women in China has been declining," Gao says in her debut commentary, "as evidenced by the large number of female workers who have been laid-off, and the fact that female college graduates have been known to become prostitutes because they couldn't find employment." Gao, 39, also notes wryly that - according to one Chinese-language Web site - most Chinese women believe she cannot have worked as a spy because she is "too old." A scholar at American University in Washington, Gao also turns a critical eye on the role women play in Chinese politics. "Were they elected or did they get their jobs through quotas set by the Communist Party?" she asks. "How much say do they have in Chinese political life? When they speak, do people heed what they say? Are their suggestions reflected in government policies?" Gao was sentenced July 24 to 10 years in jail after a Chinese court convicted her of passing information to China's arch-rival, Taiwan. She was freed on medical parole two days later following an appeal on her behalf by U.S. President George Bush. Radio Free Asia is a private, nonprofit corporation broadcasting news and information to those countries in Asia where full, accurate, and timely news reports are unavailable. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA aims to deliver such news reports-along with opinions and commentaries-and to provide a forum for a variety of voices and opinions. RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan, and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest journalistic standards and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content.

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