Two days after a closed-door hearing on the appeal by 71-year-old veteran journalist Gao Yu (高瑜), the Beijing High People’s Court ruled today to reduce her sentence by two years. In a separate decision, the Beijing Municipal No. 3 Intermediate People’s Court, the court of first instance, approved the release of the ailing Gao to serve her sentence outside the prison.
Gao, a long-standing critic of the Communist Party of China, was convicted of “leaking state secrets abroad” in April this year and sentenced to seven years in prison. The appeals court upholds her one-year post-release deprivation of political rights.
“Allowing Gao to serve a reduced sentence outside prison, though a relief for her, does not take away the glaring fact that her prosecution was a politicized use of the law to punish speech,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China. “Gao Yu’s case also highlights serious systemic concerns raised, such as independence of the judiciary and access to justice, during the rigorous scrutiny of China by the UN Committee Against Torture earlier this month.”
“It is a crime even to sentence Gao Yu to one day of imprisonment,” said rights defense lawyer Tang Jitian (唐吉田) in a comment he released. “I urge the international community to not let up its appeal for Gao and other prisoners of conscience.”
Gao, a widely respected independent journalist known for her critique of party politics, was detained in April 2014 and accused of leaking Document No. 9, an internal Party directive on anti-Western ideological control, to the Hong Kong-based Chinese language website, Mingjing, which has denied the allegation. Her son was also disappeared during that time. In May, CCTV televised her confession, which she retracted at trial, saying that it had been coerced.
Gao 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.