[JURIST] A Chinese court on Friday sentenced [press release] 71-year-old freelance journalist Gao Yu to seven years in prison for ‘leaking state secrets’ to foreign contacts. Yu has been detained since April 2014, and maintains that she is innocent. The sentence has been met with criticism. An official for the European Union Delegation to China [official website] remarked that the sentence “has heightened [the Delegation to China’s] concern on the situation of human rights defenders in China, including lawyers and journalists.” As Yu was leaving the court after sentencing, she reportedly told her lawyer [Reuters report] that she plans to appeal her sentence. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) [advocacy website], Yu is one of 44 imprisoned journalists [CPJ statement] in China.
Since the appointment of President Xi Jinping in 2013, China has set out on a campaign against corruption. Earlier this month China’s former national security chief Zhou Yongkang was charged [JURIST report] with bribery, abuse of power and disclosing state secrets. Last month the Chinese government announced [JURIST report] the conviction and investigation of 14 generals for corrupt financial practices. In February Chinese officials announced plans to prosecute [JURIST report] Su Rong, former vice-chairman of the country’s top parliamentary advisory body, for graft, including taking bribes and selling ranks and titles. China has also set out to reform its court system in recent months. Last October China announced [JURIST report] a blueprint for judicial reform aimed at giving judges more independence and limiting the influence of local officials over courts. Guidelines for the reform were released [JURIST report] the following week. In February China’s Supreme People’s Court [official website, in Chinese] announced a five-year comprehensive legal reform plan [JURIST report] to make the judiciary more impartial, fair, independent and accountable as a way to emphasize the rule of law and “safeguard national unity.”