Gao Yu was found her guilty of leaking an internal Communist Party document to a foreign website.
A 71-year-old veteran Chinese journalist, known for her hard-hitting reports on elite politics, was on Friday sentenced to seven years in jail for revealing state secrets, in what is seen as a crackdown on government critics.
Gao Yu, one of China’s most prominent journalists well known for her articles critical of government leaders, was handed down the judgment by the Beijing No. 3 Intermediate Court, that found her guilty of leaking an internal Communist Party document to a foreign website.
The document is believed to be a party circular known as ‘Document No. 9’ that ordered cadres to tackle seven subversive influences on society, including “Western constitutional democracy” and “universal values” such as human rights and free speech, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
Known for openly supporting democracy and press freedom, she originally stood trial in November last year and denied the charge, often used to jail journalists in China.
Gao immediately said she wanted to appeal against the sentence. She remained calm and was smiling as she said she planned to appeal, the report quoted her brother as saying.
The veteran journalist has been detained since April 24 last year on suspicion of “leaking state secrets abroad”. State media alleged she had “illegally obtained a secret central (party) document and provided it to (an) overseas website”.
She was forced to make a confession on state television last May, but later told prosecutors it was extracted under coercion when threats were made against her son, the report said.
The charge of leaking state secrets abroad carries a maximum penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment.
Gao, who wrote about politics, economics and social issues for media, has already spent seven years in jail.
On the eve of the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, she was locked up for 15 months. In 1993, she was jailed again for six years for leaking state secrets.
In an interview before she was arrested last year, she said her experience only spurred her to probe more deeply into her country’s affairs.
“You can change mountains and rivers but not a person’s nature -- seven years in jail did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for news,” she said.
Rights activists have criticised Gao’s detention, saying it indicates a widening crackdown on dissent.
“The sentencing of the highly respected journalist Gao Yu to seven years in jail by a Chinese court is an affront to justice and an attack on freedom of expression,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
Gao was “the victim of vaguely worded and arbitrary state-secret laws that are used against activists as part of the authorities' attack on freedom of expression,” William Nee, China researcher at the rights group, said.