A Beijing court has sentenced Chinese journalist and DW correspondent Gao Yu to seven years in prison after accusing her of leaking state secrets - a ruling Gao is unwilling to accept, her lawyer Mo Shaoping tells DW.
Gao Yu, whose trial was largely held behind closed doors, was convicted on Friday, April 17, of leaking state secrets to foreign contacts.
Her arrest in April last year was made on the grounds that she had passed on "a highly confidential document," known as Document No. 9, to a "source outside the country."
In this document, the Communist Party of China identifies potential threats, and calls for strict ideological controls. During the court proceedings, DW Director General Peter Limbourg strongly criticized that the way the Chinese government treated the 71-year-old journalist.
Having worked for DW, among other places, Gao had already spent a total of seven years in prison in the 1990s, also on charges of stealing state secrets.
In a DW interview, Mo Shaoping, one of Gao Yu's lawyers, accuses the Beijing court of failing to properly examine the evidence, and basing their decision solely on the prosecution's case.
DW: How did Gao Yu react to the verdict?
Mo Shaoping: She remained calm as the verdict was being read.
Will she appeal against the court's decision?
Yes, she will definitely appeal. She made this very clear when she left the court house.
Did you expect this ruling?
Two things are important here. First, the court completely followed the argumentation presented by the prosecution. This is how the seven-year conviction came to be.
Gao was officially charged with "leaking state secrets to foreign institutions." According to Chinese law, the punishment for this is between five to 10 years in prison.
Second, as Gao's lawyers, we cannot accept this ruling. In issuing this sentence, the court did not strictly act according to the law given that it didn't sufficiently respect the facts and evidence presented.
What exactly does this mean in Gao Yu's case?
It means that the ruling is largely based on Gao Yu's guilty plea. But Gao had already made clear that the confession was made under duress, after the police threatened to arrest her son.
The transcripts of the first interrogation, which lasted for more than 10 hours, show that Gao Yu had declared her innocence. According to Chinese law, evidence obtained under duress must be thrown out and must not be considered for passing a verdict.
Nevertheless, the court ended up using Gao Yu's guilty plea as a key piece of evidence. We believe this is illegal.
Did the court specify which documents were reportedly leaked?
The court found that Gao Yu leaked the Central Committee's so-called Document No. 9 to He Pin from Mirror Publishing in Hong Kong. However, He Pin said in a statement provided to me by his lawyer based in the US that he never received Document No. 9 from Gao. I also handed over this statement to the court.
It is the court's duty to examine the facts and at least ask He Pin about this matter. A conviction based solely on believing the prosecution's argumentation, while at the same time failing to properly examine the facts, violates the code of criminal procedure. This is why we can't accept the ruling and we will appeal.
How long did it take the court to pronounce its ruling?
About 15 minutes.
Did the sentencing also take place behind close doors?
No, but the number of seats in the courtroom is very limited. Gao Yu's brother and son were present. The other people in the room were probably court employees.
The interview was conducted by Erning Zhu.