Concerns Grow For Jailed Chinese Journalist Gao Yu After Illness

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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.

A lawyer for jailed Chinese journalist Gao Yu on Tuesday warned of her deteriorating health in prison after she received emergency treatment for a heart attack earlier this month.

Lawyer Shang Baojun visited Gao in a Beijing detention center on Tuesday, holding a meeting that lasted around 40 minutes.

"She told me that she had a heart attack at the beginning of October; she was in a great deal of pain and called the doctor, who carried out emergency treatment to save her," he said.

"The [medication] she was given didn't help, and she had another episode on Oct. 3, when they put her on a drip for the whole week."

"It's very clear that her heart episodes are getting more and more frequent," Shang said. "But we don't have many options open to  us; all we can do is apply [for her to be sent to hospital]."

"All the detention center [medical staff] can do is to manage her condition," he said.

Gao, 71, currently suffers from chronic heart pain, high blood pressure, and other diseases and has signs of a lymph node growth that could be malignant.

'Trumped-up charges'

Gao was sentenced to a seven-year jail term by the Beijing No. 3 Intermediate People's Court in April for "leaking state secrets overseas,” but she has repeatedly denied breaking Chinese law, saying that a televised "confession" on which the prosecution based its case was obtained under duress.

Germany-based journalist Su Litong, who has been a vocal campaigner for Gao's release, said the charges against Gao have no substance.

"These charges have been trumped up since the very beginning," Su told RFA on Tuesday. "They weren't able to find any solid evidence that Gao has committed a crime."

"But she was sentenced to seven years in spite of a very solid defense by her lawyers."

A source close to Gao told RFA that her friends and family are now very worried about her.

"She can only deteriorate [under the current circumstances]; she isn't going to get better, but if she got good treatment, her chronic illness could improve," the source said.

"She needs a full battery of cardio-related tests."

Extra three months

Beijing-based rights lawyer Mo Shaoping said he had also been at the meeting with Gao, who recently discovered she will continue to be held in the detention center for an extra three months following the failure of her appeal two months ago.

"She said 'they want to lock me up in here until I die,'" Mo said. "She was pretty angry that they didn't tell her, so she was surprised [to hear it from us]."

Shang said the extension of Gao's detention center stay is illegal, with the maximum length of time before transfer set at two months following a failed appeal.

"Her period in detention begins from May 12, and she has been in there for five months already, and now ... the court has extended her detention for another three months," he said.

Meanwhile, Gao's son Zhao Ming was taken out of town last Friday by police on a forced "vacation," the source close to the family said.

Repeated calls to the Beijing Municipal High Court rang unanswered during office hours on Monday.

Rights campaigners say that Gao is being held in a place where only the most basic medical facilities are available, and have repeatedly called for her release on medical parole.

Chinese law provides for suspects with "serious health problems" to be released on medical parole, but rights groups have cited the deaths in custody of rights activist Cao Shunli and popular Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche as examples of the "cruel disregard" shown by the ruling Chinese Communist Party for the health of prisoners of conscience.

Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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