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China Sentences 71-Year-Old Journalist For Doing Her Job

Chinese officials sentenced Gao Yu, a 71-year-old veteran journalist in poor health, to 7 years’ imprisonment Friday on charges of “leaking” a publicly known government document.

Gao’s lawyers said she would appeal the verdict, according to The New York Times. Her trial was held in November, which for China’s legal system proved an unusually long wait time before sentencing.

The case centers on a Communist Party document describing a strategy to combat activism for democracy and human rights, called “Document No. 9.” Gao obtained a copy of the document from a retired government official, and allegedly sent it to a U.S.-based Chinese news site called Mirror Media Group.

Her defense lawyers called the charge “absurd,” since summaries of the paper were readily available on Chinese government websites at the time. They also claim that Gao was not aware that the document was classified as secret.

Gao has worked as a journalist in China for decades for both local and international organizations. She cultivated a reputation for honest and unsparing criticism of President Xi Jinping and other officials at a time when China is strengthening its restrictions on independent media. Her current employer is German news agency Deutsche Welle.

She has been imprisoned before over the course of her career, starting with a 15-month detention for her criticism of the 1989 crackdown on protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

The Times reported that Gao has a heart condition and high blood pressure, both of which require medication.

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