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An international call for China to release ailing journalist Gao Yu

By Bob Dietz/CPJ Asia Program Coordinator on August 5, 2015 5:45 PM ET

With the health of jailed journalists Gao Yu fading quickly (see 'I don't want to die here': Gao Yu's health deteriorates in Beijing prison), 15 media support and human rights groups sent a letter today to Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials calling for the 71-year-old reporter's unconditional release. Gao suffers from heart disease, high blood pressure, and Meniere's disease, which can cause severe dizziness, according to her lawyers. As today's joint letter points out, according to United Nations norms, governments are responsible for maintaining prisoners' health.

About those United Nations norms: Gao was handed a seven-year sentence in April, accused of having passed a confidential Communist Party communique to an international media outlet, an accusation she denies. The treatise, "Document 9," reflects current political thinking with the Party. It says, among other things, that so-called humanitarian values like those enshrined in U.N. documents (to many of which China is a signatory), are not relevant to Chinese society and are an attempt to undermine Communist Party hegemony in China.

Gao's fragile health has been no secret, but as it has deteriorated recently, her lawyers have intentionally publicized the situation to international groups, seeking to bring pressure for her release. Their appeal rests on Gao's, and all prisoners' right to medical treatment. While Gao's lawyers have called for her release on legal grounds, it is also a case of common human decency for her to be set free.

Read the full letter here.


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