China reduces sentence of journalist to 5 years from 7

By: 
Associated Press

71-year-old Chinese journalist Gao Yu

BEIJING: 71-year-old Chinese journalist imprisoned on a conviction of leaking state secrets had her sentence reduced Thursday to five years, from seven, after admitting guilt during a closed appeal hearing, her lawyers said.

Gao Yu, one of the best-known intellectuals to have been imprisoned for supporting the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests, was detained again last year on charges of leaking to the media a document detailing the current Communist Party leadership's resolve to tamp down on Western notions of constitutionality and freedom.

She refused to admit guilt during her April trial, and appealed the conviction.

When Beijing's high court heard her case Tuesday behind closed doors, Gao decided to confess, which is normally seen by courts in China as contrition deserving of leniency; however, her defense continued to argue for her innocence, her lawyers said. The court announced the verdict Thursday.

"We of course hoped our defense would have set her free, but the reduction of two years is still a good thing," said lawyer Shang Baojun.

The lawyers are now seeking medical parole for Gao, who is in poor health with heart problems, Shang said.

Gao was convicted of leaking the document — known as Document No. 9 — to an overseas news site. However, the magazine, Mingjing News, has said Gao did not provide the document, and her lawyers said they presented evidence to the court this week that Gao was not the source of the report at the appeal.

Foreign governments and human rights groups have denounced the verdict against Gao as politically driven retribution for her criticisms of the government, and urged authorities to release the elderly journalist.

The journalist's brother, Gao Wei, said after the appeal verdict that he wished the court had overturned the conviction and set her free.

Before her April trial, Gao had appeared on state television and confessed, but she told the trial court she was coerced to do that.

Gao previously was imprisoned on state secrets charges for more than a year after the 1989 crackdown. She was detained again in April, weeks before the 25th anniversary of the bloody military suppression of the protesters that killed at least hundreds.

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