Monday 26 August 2019

Chinese campaigner for media freedom jailed for 6 years

Anti-Beijing protesters hold picture of veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu during a rally in Hong Kong (AP)
Anti-Beijing protesters hold picture of veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu during a rally in Hong Kong (AP)
A rally in 2013 in support of the Southern Weekly in Guangzhou (AP)

A leading Chinese human rights activist who organised rallies for media freedom has been sentenced to six years in prison in what his lawyer described as a hurried and unfair trial.

Li Jinxing said a district court in the city of Guangzhou found Yang Maodong - better known by his pen name Guo Feixiong - guilty of disturbing public order.

It also convicted him of provoking troubles - a charge Mr Li said was announced minutes before the trial.

The lawyer said the additional charge was illegal and added to the heavy prison sentence.

Yang helped organise demonstrations and spoke in support of the editorial staff at the newspaper Southern Weekly in Guangzhou in January 2013, after its journalists complained of censorship.

The case came after a 71-year-old Chinese journalist imprisoned on a state secrets conviction was released for medical reasons after pleading guilty during a closed-door appeal hearing.

Gao Yu is one of the best-known intellectuals to have been imprisoned for supporting the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests.

She was detained again last year on charges of leaking a document to the media detailing the Communist Party leadership's resolve to clamp down on Western notions of constitutionality and freedom.

She refused to admit guilt during her April trial, when she was sentenced to seven years in prison, and later appealed against the conviction.

When Beijing's high court heard her case on Tuesday, Gao pleaded guilty, which is normally seen by courts in China as contrition deserving of leniency.

However, her defence continued to argue for her innocence, her lawyers said.

The court reduced her sentence from seven years to five years. Later on Thursday, the official Xinhua News Agency announced the court had decided that Gao is qualified to serve her sentence outside of prison because of "severe illnesses".

L awyer Shang Baojun said that Gao has heart problems, but it was a shock she had been freed so soon: " We had expected her to be released for medical reasons, but it came as a surprise."

PA Media

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