China condemned for jailing 71-year-old journalist for seven years

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing
  • Updated: Apr 18, 2015 17:17 IST

Governments and human rights groups have condemned China’s decision to jail a 71-year-old journalist on spying charges, calling it a travesty of justice and that it busts the claim that the country is ruled according to law.

Independent journalist Gao Yu was dispatched to jail for seven years on Friday by a Beijing court, which indicted her of “illegally providing state secrets abroad”.

The court charged her with leaking “Document 9”, an internal Communist Party of China (CPC) document, that according to the Hong Kong-based Human Rights In China (HRIC), outlined the problems faced by it: constitutional democracy, universal values, civil society, neoliberalism, the West’s idea of journalism, historical nihilism, and questioning the socialist nature of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

“The opaque proceedings in particular the patently forces and thus legally invalid televised confession, and the verdict demonstrate serious shortcomings in the sphere of the rule of law. The increasing criminilisation and prosecution of activists is damaging both the development of Chinese society and China’s image abroad,” Christoph Strasser, German government’s Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, said in a statement.

“Gao’s conviction is the latest signal of a severe tightening of control on access to information,” Sharon Hom, executive director of HRIC, said in a statement

“The politicised use of the charge of ‘leaking state secrets abroad’ once again exposes the hollowness of the official slogan of ruling the country in accordance with the law.”

Gao, a well-known journalist, according to HRIC has long been targeted by the authorities for her critical reportage.

“She had been imprisoned twice previously, the first time in 1989 for 15 months, following her attempt to dissuade the military from acting against the demonstrators in the 1989 Democracy Movement, and later in 1994 for six years, also for leaking state secrets,” the statement said.

“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,” William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, said.

“Gao Yu is a prisoner of conscience, solely imprisoned for challenging the views of the government. She should be released immediately and unconditionally,” Nee added.

The Amnesty researcher added that the document Gao was accused of leaking could in no reasonable way be classified as a legitimate state secret.

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