A prominent Chinese journalist faces a potentially severe penalty after she confessed to leaking state secrets on national television on Thursday, marking an escalation in official efforts to control dissent ahead of June’s 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Gao Yu, 70, said she provided an internal document to an overseas website, according to reports by China Central Television and the official Xinhua news agency. CCTV broadcast footage of a blurred figure, who it identified as Ms Gao, expressing remorse for her actions.
“What I did?.?.?.?harmed national interests and was a grave mistake,” Ms Gao said. “I will earnestly and sincerely learn lessons from it and admit my guilt.”
Ms Gao, who spent six years in prison in the 1990s, is the latest in a series of high profile dissidents, lawyers and labour activists to be caught in the police dragnet.
On Tuesday, lawyer Pu Zhiqiang was placed under “criminal detention” for allegedly causing a disturbance. The measure allows police to hold him for up to 30 days – beyond the anniversary of the June 4 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre – while they decide whether or not to press formal charges. “Police are using criminal detention to deal with people they see as sources of social instability,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, a Hong Kong-based expert on China’s criminal system.
In January, Xu Zhiyong, one of China’s best-known dissidents, was sentenced to a four-year prison term for “gathering a crowd to disturb public order”. More recently Lin Dong, a labour activist, was arrested for spreading rumours online while advising a strike involving more than 40,000 workers in southern China.
Ms Gao faces a potentially much more serious sanction, as leaking state secrets is a crime punishable by death in China. However, legal experts said Ms Gao’s age and public confession made it more likely that her case was being used as a warning to other dissidents ahead of the politically sensitive anniversary.
The journalist and commentator was detained on April 24 ahead of a private commemoration of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Mr Pu was detained after a similar event held on May 3.
Xinhua and CCTV did not specify the state secret or overseas website at the centre of Ms Gao’s case, but her receipt of the information last summer appears to coincide with the leaking of details contained in the so-called “Document No 9”.
Issued by the Chinese Communist party’s general office in April 2013, the internal communiqué denounced western democratic political models as “an attempt to undermine [China’s] current leadership” and may have precipitated the arrest of Mr Xu and other members of his self-styled New Citizens Movement, whose causes included mandatory asset disclosure by Chinese officials.
The use of televised confessions before formal court hearings is a relatively new phenomenon in China’s legal system, but in other ways echoes ancient traditions that rewarded admissions of guilt with more lenient punishments.
Last year CCTV also broadcast footage of Peter Humphrey, a British private investigator based in Shanghai, admitting that he violated Chinese laws. Mr Humphrey and his Chinese born wife, a naturalised US citizen, remain in police detention.
“9号文件”是中共中央办公厅在2013年4月发布的一份内部文件，指责西方民主政治模式“企图否定（中国）当代领导”。这份文件可能加速了当局对许志永及他领导的“新公民运动(New Citizens Movement)”其他成员的拘捕。“新公民运动”的诉求之一，是要求中国官员公开财产。