Chinese court upholds conviction against journalist but lowers sentence by two years

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 26, 2015 2:08 AM

By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese court upheld a conviction on Thursday against a journalist accused of leaking an internal Communist Party document to a foreign website but reduced her jail sentence by two years in a case criticized by the West and rights groups.

Gao Yu, 71, was detained in May 2013 over accusations she had leaked a party document that warned senior members against "seven mistaken ideologies", including the "universal values" of human rights, according to Gao's lawyer, Shang Baojun.

Rights activists say her case is part of a broad government effort to suppress journalists, lawyers and activists critical of the party.

Gao was sentenced to seven years in jail in April after being convicted on a charge of providing state secrets to foreign contacts.

On Thursday, the Beijing high court reduced her sentence to five years but upheld her conviction.

Shang said the court had decided to reduce Gao's sentence after she "gave a true account of the facts of the crime during the second trial and pleaded guilty".

Shang said he would continue to seek Gao's release on medical parole, which authorities have already rejected three times.

"She has very serious high blood pressure and heart problems," Shang said. "Taking into account the fact that she's already 71, from this perspective, we are not satisfied (with the sentence reduction)."

Court officials did not respond to phone calls or a faxed query seeking comment. China's Foreign Ministry said in April that Gao's case had been handled in accordance with the law.

Dozens of police officers sealed off roads leading to the courthouse earlier on Thursday and stopped journalists from approaching.

Germany denounced the court's decision.

"The rejection of the journalist's application, who is over seventy years old and suffers from medical problems, is incomprehensible and fills me with dismay," Germany's Commissioner for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid, Christoph Strässer, said in a statement.

British-based rights group Amnesty International said Gao's health had deteriorated since her detention.

Gao was accused of giving the internal party document to Ho Pin, head of Mirror Books. Ho has told Reuters Gao did not pass him the document.

Gao, a freelance journalist well known for her articles critical of government leaders, has said she is innocent.

Her trial was held behind closed doors and diplomats and reporters were blocked from attending.

The case marked the third time Gao has been jailed on charges stemming from her activism and for leaking state secrets.

(Additional reporting by Natalie Thomas; Editing by Paul Tait)