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Chinese journalist Gao Yu awaits appeal verdict

A Chinese court will rule on the appeal of journalist and former DW correspondent Gao Yu on Thursday. Gao was convicted to seven years in prison for selling state secrets.

A court hearing for Gao Yu's appeal was held on Wednesday in Bejing behind closed doors, according to her lawyer Shang Baojun. A ruling is due early on Thursday.

Shang told DW that his 71-year-old client was "doing well, considering the circumstances" and that she was "relatively serene" during the hearing. He could only share that the hour-long hearing went according to proper procedure.

Gao was sentenced this year to

seven years in prison,

after a court found her guilty of leaking a 2013 Communist party directive named "Document No. 9" to a Hong Kong media outlet.

The widely-circulated directive warned of the "dangers" of multiparty democracy, independent media, "universal" definitions of human rights and criticism of the party's historical record.

Gao confessed to the charges on a nationally televised testimony, but later recanted, claiming her confession was made under duress induced in part by threats made to her son. Her appeal process had been delayed by authorities three times.

Picket signs demanding Gao's release

Picket signs demanding Gao's release

'A harsh sentence'

Gao's case has

galvanized regime-critical journalists

in China as well as from outlets abroad, including DW.

DW 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.

Gao's lawyer has petitioned the court to release Gao on humanitarian grounds - she 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 unwaveringly critical stance towards Beijing has led to multiple imprisonments throughout her career.

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