Chinese Journalist Denies 'Leaking State Secrets' at Trial

china-gao-yu-2007.jpg A file photo of Chinese journalist Gao Yu speaking at a press conference in Hong Kong.

Veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu went on trial in Beijing on Friday for leaking state secrets, charges she has now denied despite a televised "confession" her lawyers said was obtained under duress.

Gao told the Beijing No. 3 Intermediate People's Court at the end of her four-hour trial that she denies the charge of "leaking state secrets overseas," her lawyers told RFA after the trial ended.

"All of the proceedings are now over; the hearing of the evidence and the arguments are over," Gao's defense lawyer Shang Baojun said.

"Gao Yu played a full part in all the proceedings, including the presentation of evidence, and she spoke in her own defense," he said.

"She denied leaking state secrets overseas, and said she had committed no such act."

Gao also hit out at her "confession," saying the video recording had been made against her will and was illegal, Shang said.

Article 12 of China's Criminal Law states that "no one who has not yet undergone trial needs to confess their guilt."

'Insufficient evidence'

Gao, 70, was charged with "leaking state secrets overseas" after being detained in secret on April 24, and formally arrested on May 30.

She later appeared on the ruling Chinese Communist Party's state television channel CCTV, where she was shown, her face blurred on screen, apparently confessing to having obtained a highly confidential document and sending it to an overseas website.

Shang said Gao's defense team had also argued that much of the evidence submitted by the prosecution was inadmissible.

"There was insufficient evidence to support the charge," he said.

"It is our opinion that if you disregard Gao Yu's so-called confession, there is no objective evidence at all to show the time and place and method Gao Yu is supposed to have used to transmit these so-called confidential documents overseas, and to which country, or to which location."

"We argued that Gao Yu's so-called confession should be dismissed, but unfortunately the court didn't accept this," Shang said.

He said that court officials also declined to respond to requests for details on how the "leaked" documents had been determined to be a state secret.

"They just announced that the hearing was over," he said, adding that a sentence would likely be announced "soon."

Heart problem

Mo Shaoping, another member of Gao's defense team, said that Gao had taken medication twice during the course of the trial, once because of a heart problem.

"The first time was during a five-minute recess, and the second was when her angina flared up and she took nitroglycerin," Mo said, adding Gao is under stress in particular because of her fears for her son, Zhao Meng.

Mo said he expects a verdict and sentence "very soon."

As the trial opened, Gao's immediate relatives were held under house arrest, having been denied permission to attend the trial because of its concern with "state secrets."

Gao's son Zhao Meng was taken off on a "trip" to the neighboring province of Hebei by police at 6.00 a.m. local time, three hours before the trial began, her brother Gao Wei told RFA.

"[He'll be back] in about two days," he said, adding that he was unable to get to the court to support Gao.

"There has been a police vehicle parked outside my home since [Thursday] evening; there were two of them this morning," Gao Wei said.

"They told me not to go, but they didn't give a reason. They said it was orders from higher up," he said.  "I told them I hadn't broken the law, but they said they strongly advised against it."

Not optimistic

Gao Wei said he isn't optimistic about the outcome of Gao's trial.

"But I think the lawyers are very professional, and they would have made the arguments they should have made, and done everything according to due process," he said.

"They asked the court to dismiss evidence that was obtained illegally ... especially her confession," he said.

"But we think there are too many external factors involved here, and while our case stands up legally, there's nothing we can do about the [political] factors outside the courtroom."

Gao's arrest came as authorities rounded up dozens of rights activists and dissidents for questioning ahead of the anniversary of the June 4, 1989 military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Gao played an active part during the Tiananmen Square protests, and was detained  on June 3, 1989, as China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) moved tanks and troops into the heart of Beijing, putting an end to weeks of protests for greater democracy and rule of law.

She was released after 450 days but was then jailed again in November 1994 for "illegally providing state secrets to institutions outside China's borders" in connection with four articles she wrote in the Hong Kong-based Mirror Monthly magazine.

'Dangerously vague'

China's state secrets law covers a wide range of data from industrial information to death penalty statistics, and information can be designated a state secret retroactively.

Reporters, editors, and news anchors are explicitly barred from sharing "state secrets" in any form via any media, and must now sign nondisclosure agreements with their employers.

The sharing of information with foreign news outlets is also expressly forbidden under rules issued since Gao was detained.

But rights activists and journalists say the rules are based on a concept that is dangerously vague.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Luo Bote and Wei Ling for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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