China: Authorities show callous disregard for imprisoned journalist by denying appropriate medical care

The Chinese authorities must immediately ensure imprisoned journalist Gao Yu receives all necessary medical care, Amnesty International said, after her lawyer disclosed she is critically ill and is being denied appropriate treatment.

In April, Gao Yu, 71, was sentenced to seven years in prison on the spurious charge of “disclosing state secrets”. Amnesty International considers her a prisoner of conscience, solely imprisoned for challenging the views of the government.

The authorities are showing a callous disregard for Gao Yu’s health. Denial of medical care is a reckless way to achieve her silence.

Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International

“The authorities are showing a callous disregard for Gao Yu’s health. Denial of medical care is a reckless way to achieve her silence,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

“Withholding medical treatment for activists in detention and prison in order to weaken or punish them is a tried and tested tactic. The Chinese authorities must immediately end this unlawful and inhumane practice.”

The authorities have a history of denying appropriate medical care to detained and imprisoned human rights activists and government critics.

In March 2014, prominent campaigner Cao Shunli, 52, died from organ failure after five months in pre-trial detention. Repeated requests by Cao Shunli’s family for her to receive medical treatment for serious health problems were denied.


Amnesty International has repeatedly called for Gao Yu’s immediate and unconditional release, describing her detention as an attack on press freedom.

Gao Yu was accused of sharing an internal Communist Party ideological paper, known as Document No. 9. In the document, freedom of the press and “universal values”, such as freedom, democracy and human rights, come under severe attack.

In May 2014, state television CCTV broadcast a “confession” by Gao Yu. However, her lawyers say the statement was obtained illegally, since the authorities had also detained her son, she felt threatened and was under intense psychological pressure at the time. She also did not know that her confession would be televised.

Gao Yu was first declared a “public enemy” by Communist Party officials in the late 1980s, when she was deputy editor-in-chief of pro-reform newspaper Economics Weekly.

Open letter

Amnesty International joined Human Rights Watch, China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, The Committee to Protect Journalists, The Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers, Freedom House, Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, Human Rights in China, Independent Chinese PEN Center, Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, PEN American Center, Reporters Without Borders, Solidarite Chine and Tiananmen Mothers Campaign in a joint letter today to President Xi Jinping, expressing concerns about Gao Yu’s health and requesting her immediate and unconditional release.

The joint letter is available at: