PEN is deeply concerned for the health of veteran journalist Gao Yu following reports that she was hospitalized after the Beijing Municipal Bureau of City Administration and Law Enforcement identified her garden for destruction on March 31, 2016. Gao Yu remains in hospital; her condition has now stabilized. PEN calls on the Chinese authorities to stop harassing Gao Yu and to approve her application to be granted leave to travel to Germany for medical treatment.

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Background Information

Beijing-based veteran dissident journalist Gao Yu was released on medical parole on November 26, 2015, following an appeal and the deterioration of her health while in detention. During the same ruling, the Beijing high court upheld Gao’s conviction of "leaking state secrets abroad," but reduced her seven-year sentence to five years, the remainder of which she will be allowed to serve outside of prison (for more information see previous RAN action).

Gao Yu is reported to suffer from heart disease and high blood pressure, as well as Menière's Disease – a condition of the inner ear. She is reported to have suffered multiple heart attacks while in detention. She also has signs of a growth on a lymph node which could be malignant. Gao Yu’s application to travel to Germany to seek medical attention was denied by the Chinese authorities in February 2016. According to reports, Gao Yu has been left without access to her state pension and has no access to medical insurance.

Gao Yu was reportedly sent on a forced “vacation” in March 2016 to the southwestern province of Yunnan, thought to be timed to coincide with the annual meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC) from March 5-15, 2016.

On March 31, 2016, some 20 or more plainclothes police and urban management officials, known as "chengguan," came to Gao Yu’s Beijing home without warning.  Without a court order, they destroyed what they claimed was an illegal garden structure, according to reports. Gao’s son, Zhao Meng, was reportedly beaten during the incident. He is expected to sue the authorities for compensation for injuries sustained to his hand. The demolition is thought to be an attempt to intimidate her, as no one else with similar structures has had them destroyed.

A confrontation arising from Gao’s attempts to prevent the demolition is reported to have triggered her heart condition. She was admitted to Anzhen Hospital on April 5, where she remains in a stable condition. It is thought that the state is covering her medical costs.

According to an interview given to Radio Free Asia, Gao Yu believes that the authorities singled out her garden out among all gardens in the neighbourhood as containing illegal structures. She reports that while such demolitions would normally have court authorization, those in charge of the demolition of her garden had no such order.

Gao Yu was formerly the chief editor of Economics Weekly before being barred from publishing. She was first arrested on June 3, 1989 for an article she wrote for a Hong Kong newspaper supporting student protesters in Tiananmen Square, and was imprisoned for over a year. She spent a further five and a half years in prison from 1993-99 for "providing state secrets to parties outside [China’s] borders" in a series of political and economic articles in Hong Kong-based publications. Gao is known for her fiercely critical political analysis and knowledge of the inner circles of the Chinese Communist Party.

She continued to work in China as a freelance journalist in spite of considerable restrictions and pressure. Gao Yu contributed an essay to PEN’s 2013 report “Creativity and Constraint in Today’s China.” She is an honorary director of ICPC and an honorary member of Czech PEN, Danish PEN and Swedish PEN. Her case was used as an emblematic case during PEN’s campaigning for International Women’s Day 2015 and the Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2014. Gao Yu’s case was also highlighted as PEN’s Empty Chair during the Writers in Prison Committee Conference held in Amsterdam in May 2015 during which members wrote messages of solidarity on post cards and sent them to her in prison.

Write A Letter

Send appeals to the Chinese authorities:

  • Expressing concern at the ongoing harassment of journalist Gao Yu, including the destruction of her garden without a court order;
  • Expressing serious concern for Gao Yu’s well-being and urging that she is provided with adequate medical treatment, and that her access to her medical insurance is restored;
  • Requesting that they grant her leave to travel to Germany for medical treatment, for which she has already been granted a visa;
  • Calling for her conviction to be quashed as she was convicted and sentenced after an unfair trial for her legitimate professional activities;
  • Reminding the Chinese authorities that as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides for freedom of legitimate expression, the right not to be arbitrarily detained, the right to a fair trial and the right to leave one’s own country, China is obliged to "refrain from acts that would defeat or undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose."

Send Your Letter To

His Excellency Xi Jinping 
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032, P.R. China
Fax: +86 10 6238 1025
Salutation: Your Excellency

Wang Xiaohong
Director, Beijing Public Security Bureau
Beijingshi Gong’anju
9 Dongdajie, Qianmen, Dongchengqu,
Beijing 100740, P.R. China
Fax: +86 10 65242927
Telephone: +86 10 8522 5050 (Chinese only)
Salutation: Dear Director

President SUO Honggang
Beijing Third Intermediate People's Court 
81 Laiguangying West Road, Chaoyang District,
Beijing 100012, P.R. China.
Tel: +86-10-84773889, 84773022.
地址:北京市朝阳区来广营西路81号,邮编:100012. 电话:+86-10-68632139 68639038

President Yang Wanming
Beijing Municipal High People's Court
10 Jianguomen South Street, Chaoyang District, 
Beijing 100022, P.R. China.
Tel: +86-10-85268122 85268520
地址:北京市建国门南大街10号,邮编100022. 电话:010-85268122 85268520

Copies to: Chinese Embassy in your country. Contact details of the Chinese embassy in your country may be found here: Chinese embassies abroad