Accessibility links

Breaking News

Journalist in China Appeals 7-Year Sentence

A policeman stands guard next to portraits of Chinese journalist Gao Yu during a demonstration calling for Gao's release from a prison in China, outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, April 17, 2015.

Veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu appeared in Beijing’s high court on Tuesday to appeal a seven-year sentence for "leaking state secrets," a ruling that has been criticized by free speech advocates and foreign governments.

Security was tight outside the courthouse where the closed-door proceedings took place. Gao Yu’s lawyer Shang Baojun could not provide any specific details about the proceedings, but says the 71-year-old journalists’ health appeared to be stable.

Shang did not rule out the possibility that the sentence could be amended, saying a change in the verdict is possible.

In an appeals case there are really only two options to either uphold or alter the previous ruling, he said, adding that if the original ruling is going to be upheld, there is typically no reason to hold an open hearing.

Shang says a ruling is expected at an open hearing on Thursday.

Earlier this year, Gao Yu was sentenced to seven-years in prison for allegedly leaking internal Communist Party documents to a foreign news organization. The document that Gao was accused of leaking warns of the threat that Western ideals such as democracy, human rights and freedom of the press pose to the Communist Party’s grip on power.

Known for being outspoken, this is not the first time authorities have charged Gao Yu with leaking state secrets. She was also jailed for more than a year following the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

In her more recent case, she was detained around the time of the 25th anniversary of the Communist Party’s bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests.

Since Chinese President Xi Jinping came to power he has been tightening controls on civil society, jailing and sentencing rights advocates and government critics. More recently, the effort has expanded to include a focus on lawyers, even as the country’s Communist Party rulers seek to promote rule of law.

VOA Mandarin Service’s Yibing Feng also contributed to this report.