News / Asia

China Detains Well-Known Journalist Ahead of Sensitive Anniversary

FILE - Gao Yu, one of China's most prominent journalists.
FILE - Gao Yu, one of China's most prominent journalists.
China on Thursday detained a well-known journalist and prominent human rights activist on charges of leaking state secrets, while a Chinese court issued a 10-year prison sentence to a Hong Kong publisher who had been working on a book critical of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Both events, though technically unrelated, appear to be part of Beijing's crackdown on dissent ahead of the sensitive 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The official Xinhua news agency said Thursday that Gao Yu was detained on April 24 on suspicion of illegally obtaining a copy of an unspecified government document and passing it to overseas media.

Last Saturday in Beijing, 70-year-old Gao failed to show up at scheduled meetings, prompting concern among colleagues.

On Thursday morning the journalist appeared on state television to announce the charges. Seated at a table and wearing an orange prison vest, Gao, her face blurred, confessed to harming national interests.

"I believe what I have done has violated the law and has harmed the interests of my country. What I have done is extremely wrong," said Gao. "I will earnestly and sincerely take a lesson from this, and I admit my guilt." 

Gao's journalism has landed her in jail before. The former deputy editor of the progressive Economics Weekly — a magazine run by dissidents that was closed by authorities in the wake of the Tiananmen demonstrations — Gao, starting in 1989, spent 14 months in detention for writing articles in support of the student-led movement. In 1994 she was sentenced to six years in prison for leaking state secrets to Hong Kong media.

Some analysts say the latest charges are retaliation for her outspoken comments about the Communist Party's campaign against free speech, Chinese politics, and activism on behalf of Tiananmen victims.

'Document No 9'

While state media say Gao leaked secret documents to editors of foreign publications, authorities have not released information about what the documents contained or who received them.

Observers have speculated the leak could be linked to a party policy paper called “Document No. 9,” which Gao wrote about last summer.

According to foreign media who had access to it, the document was a strong warning aimed at Communist officials to reject Western political values such as democracy, free media and civil society.

Wen Yunchao, a Chinese blogger and activist, says authorities may use “Document No. 9” as an excuse to punish Gao's candid reporting of political struggles in China.

“After the document was published, Gao Yu continued to write columns and release interviews to reveal inner struggles within China's power groups," he said. "I think that is what really enraged those in power.”

Chinese laws identifies seven types of state secret matters, ranging from information about major policy decisions to science and technology and military affairs.

Critics say the categories are deliberately broad, giving authorities excessive leeway in defining what constitutes a state secret.

Earlier this week a migrant worker living in the Southern city Guangzhou was handed a ten-year prison term for leaking military information in exchange for money.

According to reports, the man, known only by his surname, Li, had subscribed to secret military journals and passed pictures and other information about military items to a foreign national.

It remains unclear how the man could have gained access to information deemed secret.

“These cases bring out a lot of questions about China's state secret laws," said Maya Wang, a Hong Kong-based researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch. "The fact [is] that state secret laws have often been misused and abused to prevent people from distributing and talking about publicly available information.”

London-based Amnesty International has called the charges against Gao a “smokescreen to target activists,” suggesting Gao's televised confession was a way to protect her son who disappeared the same day and is thought to be in police custody.

Independent filmmaker and activist Ai Xiaoming says that the harshness used by the government against activists this year is a mark of the new leadership's resolve to wipe out dissent.

“It is a way for them to tune their domestic policies," she said. "They believe that they need to use these extremely intense methods to block any view that is different.”

Publisher sentenced

Also on Thursday, a Chinese court issued a 10-year prison sentence to a Hong Kong publisher Yao Wentian, who had been working on a book critical of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Yao, who has printed several books that are banned in mainland China, was arrested in Shenzhen last year on charges of smuggling chemicals across the border. His arrest came as he was preparing to publish a book by exiled dissident writer Yu Jie titled "China’s Godfather: Xi Jinping.”

Yao Wentian's lawyer, Ding Xikui, told VOA that his client, who is also known by the name Yiu Mantin, was only an accomplice and the sentence was too heavy. Critics of the Chinese government have accused authorities of targeting Yao because of his publishing activities.

Anniversary

Gao Yu's arrest comes just weeks ahead of the anniversary of the deadly 1989 crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen square, a traditionally sensitive time in China where authorities routinely suppress attempts to commemorate the date.

Gao went missing days before about fifteen people, including lawyers, scholars and activists, held a seminar about the Tiananmen anniversary last Saturday in Beijing. Police later arrested prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang; at least four others — Liu Di, Xu Yonyu, Hao Jian and Hu Shigen — have been detained. Other seminar participants have reportedly been placed under house arrest.

The U.S. State Department on Wednesday said it is "deeply concerned" at the reported detentions, and called for the dissidents to be freed immediately.

It has been almost 25 years since Chinese troops, backed by tanks, moved in to crush the student-led demonstration on June 4, 1989, triggering worldwide condemnation. Estimates of those killed range from several hundred to several thousand people.

China still considers the incident a "counter-revolutionary rebellion" and has never admitted any wrongdoing in its handling of the uprising or disclosed an official death toll or other key details of the crackdown, which is not discussed in state media.

Government censors also work hard to erase any reference to the incident in the country's very popular social media outlets.

Bill Ide contributed to this report in Beijing. Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid