New York, N.Y., May 28, 1998 In a personal letter delivered to the White House today, Columbia University President George Rupp called on President Clinton in preparing for his visit to China "to raise the case of imprisoned Chinese journalist Gao Yu with President Jiang Zemin and to call for her immediate release on humanitarian grounds."
"Our urgent appeal is prompted by her deteriorating health, which requires medical treatment denied her in China," Rupp wrote in his letter. Gao Yu, a well-known journalist who reported for both Chinese and Hong Kong publications, was set to leave Beijing for New York in October 1993 to take up a fellowship at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism when she was arrested by Chinese authorities. Convicted in a secret closed trial, she was sentenced to six years in prison for "providing state secrets to parties outside the borders."
"Gao Yu is among the most respected journalists in China, and her courage and dedication to her craft have long been recognized by the outside world," Rupp wrote, noting that she was the first to receive the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. "Columbia stands ready to welcome her into the university community to take up her long-postponed study at the earliest possible time."
In his letter, Rupp cited the Committee to Protect Journalists' World Press Freedom Day report naming China's President Jiang Zemin among the world's 10 worst enemies of the press for his rigid control of all forms of media, and CPJ documentation showing that at least nine journalists are in prison in China just for carrying out their professional responsibilities as journalists.
"China has yet to take the necessary steps toward creating a climate conducive to the development of a free press, that essential precondition for a truly democratic society," Rupp wrote. "A meaningful step toward the goal of a more democratic future for China would be signaled by the release of Gao Yu&emdash;before her fragile health deteriorates further."
CPJ's executive director, William A. Orme, Jr., said, "The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes President Rupp's appeal on Gao Yu's behalf. We also urge President Clinton during his time in Beijing to stress publicly U.S. support for the immediate removal of state restrictions on the press throughout China, which remains the largest system of totalitarian media control anywhere in the world."
Click here to read the full text of the letter to President Clinton
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