Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid Christoph Strässer issued the following statement today (17 April) on the sentencing of Chinese journalist Gao Yu to seven years in prison.
I am utterly dismayed by today’s sentencing of Chinese journalist Gao Yu to seven years in prison for allegedly “illegally providing state secrets to foreigners”. Gao Yu is not only one of the country’s most renowned journalists, she has been making an important contribution to the development of Chinese civil society for decades.
The opaque proceedings, in particular the patently forced and thus legally invalid televised confession, and the verdict demonstrate serious shortcomings in the sphere of the rule of law. The increasing criminalisation and prosecution of activists is damaging both the development of Chinese society and China’s image abroad.
I call upon China’s leaders to strengthen political liberties, the rule of law and transparency and not to disappoint expectations of their willingness to implement reform. This includes progress in terms of respecting human rights as well as the release of all people who have been incarcerated for having peacefully exercised their constitutional right to freedom of expression.
Gao Yu is one of China’s most renowned journalists and has been awarded various international prizes for journalism. More recently she has worked as a freelance writer for a range of internet platforms and radio stations, including many years of reporting for Deutsche Welle.
On 24 April 2014 Gao Yu, now 71 years old, was arrested for allegedly “illegally providing state secrets to foreigners”; legal proceedings closed to the public have been ongoing since November last year. Ms Gao is accused of having obtained a secret party document and having leaked it to a foreign website. The document in question is thought to be “Document No 9”, which outlines seven taboos that should not be spoken about in Chinese universities or media, etc. – they include Western values and the rule of law. The detention of Ms Gao is the latest in the series of arrests of Chinese activists, dissidents, critical journalists and intellectuals which started in mid-April 2014.