Imprisoned veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu has hired well-known rights lawyer Mo Shaoping to defend her against charges of “leaking state secrets,” replacing her former attorney as her case moves closer to trial, sources said.
Gao was secretly detained on April 24, and then formally arrested on May 30, 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.
She was later paraded on the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s state television channel, where she was shown, her face blurred on screen, apparently confessing to having obtained a highly confidential document and sent it to an overseas website.
Gao’s former lawyer Zhang Sizhi, 87, can no longer represent Gao for reasons of health, a friend of the jailed journalist told RFA’s Mandarin Service on Wednesday.
“Mr. Mo has already submitted the documents needed for the change of attorney,” the friend said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “He gave them to the court on Tuesday.”
Gao’s case was recently transferred from the prosecutor’s office to the court, opening a period of pretrial review of about a month and a half, she said.
“But I don’t know [exactly] when Gao’s case was transferred to the court,” she said.
A 'political case'
“Mo Shaoping himself is happy to work in defending Gao Yu,” said former Deutsche Welle reporter Su Yutong, another friend of Gao’s.
“He said that he can begin working on the case after the current National Day holiday week, when he will be able to review files in the court and start work on some other tasks.”
Su confirmed that Gao’s family and Mo’s office had signed a contract on Tuesday to hire Mo as Gao’s defense attorney.
Regardless of who represents her, though, Gao’s case is a “political case,” and judges assigned to try her will have no power to rule according to law, Su said.
“Lawyers cannot handle these cases on legal principles alone, but cases like this are significant and can provide valuable lessons for society.”
“The public will learn a lot from this case,” he said.
Gao, who played an active part during the Tiananmen Square protests, was detained once before 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 calls 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.
More recently, she has given outspoken interviews and written commentaries for overseas media, including RFA, and also worked for Germany’s Deutsche Welle radio service.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated by Ping Chen. Written in English by Richard Finney.