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17 April 2015

FCCHK Statement about 7-Year Jail Term for Mainland China Journalist Gao Yu

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Hong Kong expresses its grave concern to the Chinese authorities at the conviction of 71-year-old journalist Gao Yu on the charges of leaking state secrets to foreign media. The seven-year jail sentence is unwarranted and particularly harsh for an elderly woman who is already in frail health and requires medication.

Gao, a freelance journalist who has written about politics, economic and social issues for domestic and overseas media, appears to have been punished for simply doing her job. We remind the authorities that freedom of expression and reporting are enshrined in the Chinese constitution.

China's leadership said at its last Communist Party Plenum that it was committed to the rule of law and greater transparency in the legal system. We urge China to honour that commitment in the case of Gao and other jailed journalists.

The treatment of Gao, who has already been detained for almost a year, is the latest indication of a worsening environment for reporters working in the country. She is one of 44 journalists who were behind bars in China as of December 1, 2014, according to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists. The incarceration of reporters who are doing their job by shining a light on issues in China today must end.

The FCC has previously expressed its concern at increasing restrictions on domestic and foreign media over the past two years. We all on the authorities to change the prevailing climate of repression toward the media.

Gao was the guest speaker at the Human Rights Press Awards hosted by the FCC in 2002. She was arrested last April as authorities rounded up dozens of rights activists and dissidents for questioning ahead of the 25th anniversary of the June 4. 1989, military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Gao has been jailed before, including towards the end of the Tiananmen Square protests. She was released then after 450 days, but was jailed again in November 1994 for "illegally providing state secrets to institutions outside China's borders" in connection with four articles she wrote in the Hong Kong-based Mirror Monthly magazine.