Jailed Chinese Journalist Appeals Seven-Year Jail Term For ‘Leaking Secrets'

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A policeman stands guard outside the central government liaison office next to a placard showing a portrait of Chinese journalist Gao Yu left by demonstrators in Hong Kong, April 17, 2015.
A policeman stands guard outside the central government liaison office next to a placard showing a portrait of Chinese journalist Gao Yu left by demonstrators in Hong Kong, April 17, 2015.

Jailed veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu has formally appealed against her seven-year jail term for "leaking state secrets overseas," her lawyer said on Tuesday.

Gao was sentenced by the Beijing No. 3 Intermediate People's Court on Friday to seven years' imprisonment 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.

"Gao Yu has formally lodged her appeal via the detention center," her lawyer Mo Shaoping told RFA after visiting Gao on Tuesday.

"The detention center limited what she was allowed to write, so Gao told me it was reduced to a single sentence; that she doesn't accept the verdict against her, and that she is appealing on the basis of the laying of the charges and the quality of the evidence," Mo said.

Gao said the ruling Chinese Communist Party's talk of building a country according to the rule of law at the fourth plenum of its 18th Party Congress last year was "empty talk," Mo said.

But he said the detention center staff had no right to edit what she wrote on the appeal documents.

"The detention center has no right to limit the word count of an appeal statement written by a defendant," Mo said.

"She basically said that she has been the victim of an unjust and shameless judgment...but that she had expected it," he said.

Gao had also written a complaint letter pointing out procedural errors during her detention, including a failure to inform her directly when her detention period was extended by the authorities.

"She said that she would fight this to the bitter end, but that she would also take good care of her health, and take time out for reading," Mo said.

"She thanked everybody, and said she will see her friends again in six years."

Brotherly support

Gao's brother Gao Wei said he agreed with her decision to appeal.

"She was interrogated for 10 hours straight when they first detained her, and she has pleaded her innocence all along, except for that period of time when her son was also detained, when she 'confessed to her crimes'," Gao Wei said.

"Such a confession, when the person that is dearest to you is in danger, what sort of a confession is that?" he said.

Gao's detention last April came as she planned to mark the 26th anniversary of 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement on Tiananmen Square, which culminated in a military crackdown by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on the night of June 3-4, 1989.

During her November trial, Gao Yu was accused of leaking party policy Document No. 9 to a Hong Kong-based media outlet.

Document No. 9 lists "seven taboos" to be avoided in public debate, including online and in China's schools and universities, including democracy, freedom of the press, judicial independence and criticism of the party's historical record.

Gao's sentencing last Friday sparked an outcry among rights groups and fellow activists, who said there was no evidence that she broke Chinese law.

In Taiwan, where political parties are gearing up for fully democratic presidential elections next year, an opposition party spokesman said the party sees the human rights situation in China as being linked to Beijing's attitude towards Taiwan, which it regards as a breakaway province awaiting reunification.

"We believe that freedom, democracy and human rights are mainstream values that transcend national boundaries," Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman Cheng Yun-peng told RFA on Tuesday.

"We also see them as an important basis for the maintenance of peace and stability in [relations with China]," Cheng said.

"That's why we are calling on the Chinese government to treat its dissidents [accordingly]."

Worsening human rights situation

Wang Dan, a former student leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, said Gao's jailing shows that China's human rights situation has worsened since President Xi Jinping came to power in November 2012.

But he said not enough world leaders were taking Beijing to task.

"Western countries tread even more carefully around this topic than Taiwan does, which they really shouldn't," Wang said.

"If they care about China's development, then they should care...that a worsening political and human rights climate will turn it into a much more hard-line country that will affect both its future dealings with Taiwan and its future policy direction," Wang said.

Taiwan has been governed separately from the rest of China since the nationalist Kuomintang regime fled there in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong's communists on the Chinese mainland.

But Beijing has refused to rule out the use of military force, should the democratic island ever seek formal statehood.

Reported by Qiao Long and Hsia Hsiao-hwa for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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