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Appeal of dissident DW journalist to proceed in China

The lawyer of renowned Chinese journalist Gao Yu has said her appeal has been heard in a closed-door session after months of delays. The former DW contributor is appealing a seven-year sentence for selling state secrets.

Lawyer Shang Baojun told AP news agency on Tuesday that a Beijing court heard Gao Yu's appeal in a closed-door session and that a decision would be announced later. Shang said he could not discuss the hearing.

The appeal process for former Deutsche Welle correspondent Gao

had been delayed by authorities three times,

according to a DW press release circulated on Monday. The hearing for the 71-year-old journalist, currently in prison in China for "betraying state secrets," was reported to have been held behind closed doors on Tuesday.

DW's Director General Peter Limbourg has repeatedly expressed his dismay at Gao's arrest and imprisonment.

"I very much hope that the court finally frees Gao Yu from prison and that the Chinese leadership finally realizes that this harsh sentence is a disgrace," Limbourg said on Monday.

Imprisonment over leaked document

Gao was originally arrested in April 2014 and sentenced in 2015 to seven years in prison, after a court ruled that Gao had leaked a 2013 directive by the Communist part named "Document number 9" to a Hong Kong media outlet.

According to copies of the paper, which were widely circulated online, the document warned of the "dangers" of multiparty democracy, independent media, "universal" definitions of human rights and criticism of the party's historical record.

Gao's imprisonment prompted concern from DW for other dissident and regime-critical journalists and bloggers in China.

Health issues

Although Gao did confess to selling state documents to foreign institutions in nationally televised testimony, she later recanted - saying the confession was made under duress. The journalist accused authorities of threatening her son if she did not admit to the charges.

Her lawyer Mo Shaoping has petitioned the court to release Gao on humanitarian grounds - the aging critic of the Chinese government has a long history of health problems, including a dangerous heart condition.

Gao is one of China's most decorated journalists, having won, among other prizes, the Golden Pen of Freedom and the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. Her critical stance towards Beijing has seen her repeatedly imprisoned throughout her career.

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