BEIJING (AP) — A newspaper published by China's ruling Communist Party on Saturday endorsed charges of leaking state secrets against a veteran journalist that critics say amount to political persecution.
The Global Times said in an editorial that Gao Yu is clearly guilty of leaking an internal party document on ideological instruction. It said rules state that such documents are classified as secret unless the party decides to make them available to the general public.
The editorial also took aim at overseas criticism of Gao's case, calling it part of a campaign to smear China's reputation.
"Little criticism from the West pointed to the crime itself, but declared that Gao's sending the document is 'freedom of speech.' This is ridiculous from the angle of law," it said.
The 70-year-old Gao denied the charges in a closed-door hearing on Friday. She faces a maximum sentence of death.
State media have not identified the document at the heart of the case, but it appeared to refer to a strategy paper — known as Document No. 9 —that argued for aggressive curbs on the spread of Western democracy, universal values, civil society, freedom of the press and other ideological concepts the party considers a threat to its unrivaled hold on power.
Gao's case is just one of several seen as highlighting the gap between China's vision of rule of law, a top priority of President Xi Jinping, and Western notions of judicial fairness and civil liberties.
Also on Friday, a jailhouse court in the northwestern region of Xinjiang upheld a separatism conviction and life sentence for Ilham Tohti, a noted scholar from China's Muslim Uighur minority who frequently criticized the government.
Tohti's supporters portray him as a moderate seeking to mediate tensions between Xinjiang's native Uighurs and China's ethnic Han majority blamed for a recent surge in deadly violence. Beijing maintains the violence is fueled by terrorists and Islamic insurgents trained outside China.
Both prosecutions were criticized anew on Friday by the U.S. State Department, which said it would continue to push for Tohti's release.
"We urge Chinese authorities to differentiate between peaceful dissent and violence extremism," spokesman Jeff Rathke said.
"And we continue to call on Chinese authorities to release all persons detained for peacefully expressing their views, to remove restrictions on their freedom of movement and to guarantee them the protections and freedoms," Rathke said.