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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid counter-terror intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid