WPFD- Case of Gao Yu

Gao Yu, is a 70-year-old independent and outspoken veteran journalist from China. In 2014, she was charged for ‘leaking a state secret’ and was sentenced to seven years imprisonment. This is not her first time in prison, having already served two sentences.  

In 1979, Gao began her career in journalism working for the state-owned media, China News Service. Although she had privileged access to government elites and was well paid she was unsatisfied in her work. So in 1988 she left and joined Economics Weekly, a more liberal publication as deputy editor-in-chief.  

Prior to the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, Gao authored an article, Political program for turmoil and rebellion in which she interviewed two reformists, Yan Jiaqi and Wen Yuankai. On June 3, one day before the massacre Gao was arrested by Beijing police on accusations that the article promoted ‘bourgeois liberalisation’. The publication was ordered to shut and Gao, who was labelled by Beijing mayor, Chen Xitong, as a public enemy was detained for 12 months. She was released in 1990 on medical parole.  

This did not deter Gao. In 1993 she was against arrested on accusations of ‘leaking state secrets’ and although Gao denied the accusation, which related to the leaking of a speech of former President Jiang Zemin to Hong Kong media, she was sentenced to six years imprisonment. She was released early in 1999 due to poor health.  

In recent years Gao continued to write commentaries and articles for Hong Kong and international media, as well as accept interviews with foreign news outlets. However in 2014, following Xi Jinping becoming China’s President, Gao was arrested on accusation of ‘leaking state secrets’. In November 2014, Gao faced a four hour-long closed trial. No details or information of the ‘state secret’ was revealed, although the media speculated that it referred to a Community party secret, which is known as Document No.9, which was issued after President Jinping took power. The documents include ‘seven perils’ such as free press. During her trial, Gap denied the accusations and disclosed that her earlier confession was made after authorities threatened to charge her son if she did not admit her guilt. The verdict was postponed on two occasions and delivered on April 17.  

Gao’s continued work for press freedom has been recognized across the globe. In 1995 she received the Golden Pen for Freedom and Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation. In 1997, she won the press award from Reporters’ Without Borders and in 199 she became the first journalist to receive the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Price. In 2000 she was named as one of the International Press Institute’s 50 World Press Freedom Heroes of the 20th Century.