Mother of jailed journalist pleads for backing to secure his release
The mother of jailed mainland journalist Shi Tao fought back tears yesterday as she appealed for international support to push for the early release of her son.
Gao Qinsheng, 61, is in Hong Kong meeting human rights activists to follow up on a lawsuit filed in a California court against internet firms Yahoo, Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) and Alibaba.com.
The suit seeks unspecified compensation from Yahoo for disclosing Shi's personal internet user identity to the mainland government which led to his arrest and imprisonment. Shi, 39, was convicted of leaking state secrets and jailed for 10 years in 2005.
'Shi Tao is innocent. What the internet company has done has effectively killed a kind young man's future and killed a happy family. When he is released he will be old, he will have no job. How can he survive?' Ms Gao said.
'I [filed the suit] not only for Shi Tao, but for hundreds of thousands of other journalists and internet users. It is wrong for them to give the information to the government.'
Ms Gao said she was saddened to see Shi's health worsening in jail.
'Shi Tao is not a political prisoner. We cannot apply for his release on medical parole. But I must thank the international community for its support,' said Ms Gao, who was on her way back to the mainland after receiving a world press award on behalf of Shi in Cape Town, South Africa.
Beijing had reportedly demanded the award be withdrawn, claiming Shi had been tried in a court of law and sentenced accordingly.
'The award proves that Shi Tao is really innocent ... he has the sympathy and support of fellow journalists all over the world,' Ms Gao said.
Democrat Albert Ho Chun-yan, who is helping Ms Gao liaise with United States' law firms on Shi Tao's case, said: 'We are also arranging for Ms Gao to visit the US. We hope she can go and we are arranging for her to meet congressmen and journalists.'
Mr Ho also said he would appeal against a March ruling by Hong Kong's Privacy Commission, which said Yahoo's Hong Kong unit had not violated personal data laws in revealing Shi's computer address.
Alibaba.com was also involved because it is a subsidiary of Alibaba Group. Yahoo invested US$1 billion in Alibaba Group in 2005 and the group acquired Yahoo China in October that year.