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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid