Jailed Chinese journalist Gao Yu granted medical parole after appeal in state secrets case
Veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu was on Thursday granted medical parole, hours after a court reduced her seven-year jail sentence for “leaking state secrets” by two years.
Beijing’s Third Intermediate People’s Court granted the parole based on a medical report that said Gao, 71, suffered “serious disease”, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
Gao’s appeal had been heard at the Beijing Higher People’s Court, which reduced her sentence – imposed in April – to five years.
“The parole is surely a good thing, considering her age and health status,” Gao’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping said.
“This is plea bargaining with Chinese characteristics,” he said of the reduced sentence, which matched the minimum penalty for the charge. “We hoped she would be pronounced innocent. But the reduction of the sentence is better than nothing.”
READ MORE: Hopes of lighter sentence, medical parole for Chinese journalist Gao Yu in state secrets case appeal
Gao admitted her guilt during her appeal, despite having refused to plead guilty at her first trial.
“She does not want to die in prison,” said another of Gao’s lawyers, Shang Baojun. “Her health can barely be kept from deteriorating in detention.”
Gao, who suffers heart disease, high blood pressure and a chronic skin allergy, has been in custody since April last year.
She had recently started to suffer a lymphatic system disease, Shang said.
It was common for convicts in China to be granted lighter sentences or probation once they formally admitted their guilt, even in cases involving dissidents, said veteran rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan.
“It is rare in such cases that the sentence is reduced at appeal, as most defendants plead guilty at the first trial or simply remain defiant at their appeal,” he added.
Hong Kong-based China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said this did not mean Beijing had changed its attitude to dissidents. “Cases of a similar kind were still not given leniency,” he said.
READ MORE: Fears over deteriorating health of veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu jailed for leaking state secrets
Gao’s case had attracted international attention and would be another headache for Beijing had the sentence not been changed, he said.
When Gao was sentenced in April, the court said she had sent an electronic version of a photocopy of a Communist Party circular known as Document No.9 to the US-based Chinese-language news website Mingjing in 2013.
The document ordered cadres to tackle seven subversive influences on society, including “Western constitutional democracy” and “universal values” such as human rights and free speech.
The founder of the website denied Gao had sent the document.
Gao is known for hard-hitting reports on politics. She was locked up for 15 months on the eve of the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989 and was detained again in 1993 and later given a six-year jail term for leaking state secrets.