'I am Out of Town Traveling Right Now': Where is Gao Yu?

china-gaoyu3-042619.jpg Chinese journalist Gao Yu (5th from left) visits with friends, April 19, 2019.
Twitter / Gao Yu

Veteran journalist Gao Yu remains under apparent restriction by Chinese authorities, although she has finished serving her jail sentence under house arrest, RFA has learned.

Gao, 75, had a seven-year jail term for "leaking state secrets overseas" cut on appeal to five years by the Beijing High People's Court in November 2017.

She was then released to "serve her sentence outside jail," with a condition attached that she decline to give interviews to the press.

That sentence formally ended on April 23, but Gao appeared to be under continuing restrictions when contacted by RFA.

"I can't," Gao said, when asked for comment. "I am out of town traveling right now."

Gao had earlier told Radio Television Hong Kong that she had received her prisoner release documents at home on the morning of April 23.

Her friend Bao Tong, former aide to late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, said he hopes that Gao will get her freedom back.

"I hope she can truly regain her liberty," Bao said. "In my own case, I was also a counterrevolutionary criminal who was released from prison, but when the sentence was over, I wasn't released ... instead, they took me somewhere else for another year."

"I hope that the same thing that happened to me back then doesn't happen again, and ... that the government will stop monitoring Gao Yu, and will restore her full liberty and civil rights," he said.

Link to anniversary

Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia, another of Gao's friends, said Gao's unknown location could be linked to the 30th anniversary of the 1989 student-led democracy movement on Tiananmen Square and the subsequent massacre of unarmed civilians by the People's Liberation Army, which falls this year.

"Her sentence may be completed, but she may still not be able to freely associate with other people, without restriction," Hu said.

"This year in particular is an unusual one, because it's the 30th anniversary [of the Tiananmen massacre] and also the 70th anniversary of Chinese Communist Party rule."

"Legally speaking, Gao Yu is free, but that's not going to change the fact that she is going to remain under surveillance to some extent," he said.

Forbidden topics

Gao was initially detained in April 2014, as she planned to mark the 26th anniversary of the PLA crackdown that left hundreds, possibly thousands, dead on the night of June 3-4, 1989.

During her November 2014 trial, Gao 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.

Her defense team argued that the document was already available online, and that the media organization in question could easily have downloaded it elsewhere.

Gao has denied breaking Chinese law, saying that a televised "confession" on which the prosecution based its case was obtained under duress.

Her sentencing sparked an outcry among rights groups and fellow activists, who said there was no evidence that she broke Chinese law.

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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