On April 15, 1989, Hu Yaobang died. Hu had been general secretary of the Communist Party from 1982 to 1987, and recognized for his leanings toward economic reform in China. His death led to demonstrations around China, some of them in Tiananmen Square. On June 4, 1989, Tiananmen became the focus of the government’s wrath, and in the intersections of the broad streets around the plaza, the government cracked down brutally. Since then, it has been a government tradition to start cracking down on protesters, critics, and dissidents before April 15, and this year is no different. China watchers say the strictures have already begun with warnings to some and detentions for others. I checked with foreign journalists over the weekend, and they say they’re aware of the crackdowns, but are not feeling any heat themselves. Yet.
But one widely admired Chinese reporter has been missing since Thursday. Gao Yu, 70, who is known for speaking frankly and who has been regularly quoted in foreign media, cannot be found, and people are looking for her. Her normally active Twitter feed has been silent since April 23. Deutsche Welle, for which she worked, says it has not been able to contact her. Her publisher Mirrorbooks, for which she writes frequently, said it tried various methods to contact her but did not succeed. Her lawyer, Teng Biao, tweeted on Sunday that she has been missing for four days and four nights.
Gao Yu was first arrested on June 3, 1989, and was held for 450 days. She was sent to prison in 1994 for writing candidly and authoritatively–though not especially critically–about Chinese economic and political affairs for the Mirror Monthly, a Hong Kong magazine known for its generally pro-mainland editorial line, CPJ reported in 1997. In that year she was presented a $25,000 press freedom award in absentia by UNESCO Director General Fernando Mayor. Beijing reacted with furor, calling Gao Yu a criminal and threatening to close UNESCO’s China office or quit the U.N. agency altogether.
The government has made no comment in response to her recent disappearance.