′Missing′ journalist detained for alleged leaks | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 08.05.2014
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'Missing' journalist detained for alleged leaks

Chinese journalist Gao Yu, who had gone missing at the end of April, has been detained by authorities for "revealing state secrets." Her arrest comes a month before the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre.

It has been made public that the well-known journalist and regime critic Gao Yu has been arrested. Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that the 70-year-old had been taken into custody for leaking "state secrets" – she allegedly forwarded a Communist Party document to a foreign website. Xinhua did not specify which secrets or which paper in particular had been passed on but said that the police had seized "substantial" evidence from her home.

Last year, Gao had written a report on an internal party communiqué referred to as Document 9 which - among other things - called for authorities to crack down on any divergence from party lines. A magazine in Hong Kong published her article in full length last August.

After going missing at the end of April, Gao was paraded on state TV on May 8 giving a confession. "I believe what I have done has touched on legal issues and has endangered the country's interests. What I have done was a big mistake. I earnestly and sincerely have learned a lesson from this experience and admit my guilt," Gao told a remote audience, according to AFP news agency.

Party mouthpiece Xinhua reported that Gao had expressed "deep remorse" for what she had done and that she was "willing to accept punishment from the law."

"Intervention"

Observers see a correlation between the date of her arrest and the upcoming 25th anniversary of the bloody state crackdown on protests - the Tiananmen Massacre - which happened on June 4. This wouldn't be the first time that Chinese authorities have "intervened" with known critics before the anniversary of a historical incident deemed as sensitive by the country's leadership.

Last year, at least six activists were detained ahead of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre on June 4. The 70-year-old Gao Yu was one of them. She told DW she had been escorted out of her home in Beijing in the early hours of June 4 in a police car, to "get some fresh air," as she had been told. She was released on the evening of the same day. Speaking with DW after the event, she said she had not been mistreated. But run-ins with police were nothing new for Gao Yu. In the 1990s, she spent a total of seven years in prison for her work as a journalist. The charges against her included "publishing state secrets."

Gao Yu has been a regular contributor to DW. Her last article was published online on April 23 and was about the fall of the reformed party leader Hu Yaobang in 1986. His death in April of 1989 is considered to be what sparked China's 50-day democracy movement.

Bloody military operation - 25 years ago

What began as a student movement soon attracted Chinese from all walks of life; millions of people marched on Beijing to demand more democracy and civil rights. For seven weeks, they occupied the Tiananmen Square, in the heart of the country's capital. After a drawn-out internal party power struggle, the party leadership approved the deployment of heavily armed troops and tanks to the site on June 3 and 4, 1989. Hundreds to thousands of civilians were killed when the military randomly opened fire on unarmed protesters. The Chinese government has still not released any figures on the real death toll of the massacre.

Tiananmen Square

There is a heavy police and military presence at Tiananmen Square around the anniversary of the massacre

Silke Ballweg, press officer for Reporters without Borders, told DW the Chinese authorities still continued to suppress all memories of what happened in 1989. She said it was possible that the authorities had disappeared Gao.

Clear warning

The disappearance of figure as prominent as Gao Yu so soon before the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, according to Ballweg, should be seen as a warning to all journalists and bloggers to exercise restraint in the publication of their opinions of June 4 in the coming weeks.

According to Ballweg's assessment, the situation for journalists and other members of the media has significantly worsened under the country's new leadership, which has been in power for a year.