Gao Yu is a rare type of journalist in China. She braved working outside of what’s considered mainstream media in China (that being state-controlled), and suffered for her work on more than one occasion.
Along with other prominent intellectuals, Gao spent 15 months in jail following the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. She spent a further five-and-a-half years in jail during in the 1990s for sending party documents, including a speech by then-Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin, to a Hong Kong newspaper, reports the BBC.
On Friday, the highly respected 71-year-old was given a 7-year sentence for providing state secrets to foreigners, a charge that she denies.
She had already been detained for a year.
While it remains unconfirmed by Chinese officialdom, the so-called state secret is believed to be an internal Communist Party ideological paper known as “Document No.9.” “The paper is said to call for aggressive restrictions on democracy, civil society, and the press,” said the BBC.
Gao was working as a freelance journalist writing about politics, the economy, and social trends for Chinese media in Hong Kong and overseas, says the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
“She has been honored with international awards, including the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, presented to her by UNESCO in 1997,” stated CPJ.
In the lead-up to her trial, which was held in November, State TV had released blurry video of her admitting to a “big mistake,” which she later claimed was a statement made under pressure.
The sentencing of Gao has met a barrage of criticism, ranging from official representatives such as Raphael Droszewski, a first secretary at the European Union delegation to China (who you can see in the above video) to leading NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
“She is the victim of vaguely worded and arbitrary state-secret laws that are used against activists as part of the authorities’ attack on freedom of expression,” said William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International.
“Gao Yu is a prisoner of conscience, solely imprisoned for challenging the views of the government. She should be released immediately and unconditionally.”
There are currently 44 journalists imprisoned in China, the highest number for any single country in the world.
For another report on Gao’s sentencing, see the below video: