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Chinese journalist’s prison sentence reduced to 5 years from 7

In this April 17, 2015, file photo, protesters hold pictures of jailed veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu during a rally outside Chinese central government's liaison office in Hong Kong. The placards read, "Defend press freedom."

In this April 17, 2015, file photo, protesters hold pictures of jailed veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu during a rally outside Chinese central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong. The placards read, “Defend press freedom.”

(Kin Cheung / Associated Press)

A 71-year-old Chinese journalist imprisoned on charges of leaking state secrets had her sentence reduced from seven years to five, a Beijing court announced Thursday, apparently because of deteriorating health.

Gao Yu, who was convicted in April, suffers from a heart ailment and high blood pressure. Human rights activists say that her condition has worsened in recent months and that prison authorities have denied her adequate medical care. The court heard Gao’s appeal behind closed doors on Tuesday.

“This isn’t what we were hoping for — we hoped she would be found not guilty at all — but of course a lighter sentence is better than a heavier sentence,” her lawyer Mo Shaoping said after the announcement. He added that he would continue seeking to have her released on medical parole.

Police detained Gao in April 2014 amid a sweeping crackdown on rights activists in advance of the 25th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, when People’s Liberation Army soldiers fired into crowds of unarmed pro-democracy protesters, killing hundreds.

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Authorities accused Gao of providing a Hong Kong magazine with a leaked government circular called “Document No. 9,” which urged officials to reject Western values such as multiparty democracy and freedom of speech.

In early May of this year, the official broadcaster China Central Television aired a recorded confession by Gao in which she admitted to harming the “national interest” and touching on “legal issues.” Yet Gao maintains her innocence, and her lawyers have argued that she made the confession under duress.

Gao’s lawyers appealed to the Beijing Higher People’s Court to grant her medical parole in July, after a physical examination revealed that she had high blood pressure.

“A two-year reduction is a small reduction,” said Maya Wang, a Hong Kong-based researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This is good news, but it is not enough — she should be released immediately, because she has committed no crime.”

Gao has been detained repeatedly over the course of her decades-long career; she spent 15 months in jail after the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Foreign governments, the European Union and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, are among those who have called for Gao’s release.

“#China journo Gao Yu—who took on stories others wld not—appeals 7yr jail sentence,” Power wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “She shld be released.”

Twitter: @JRKaiman


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