China: Elderly journalist denied care in prison
July 6, New York: The Chinese government should ensure imprisoned journalist Gao Yu receives necessary medical care, Human Rights Watch said today. Gao, 71, was arrested in April 2014 and sentenced to seven years in prison in 2015 for allegedly leaking an internal Chinese Communist Party (CCP) document calling for greater censorship of liberal and reformist ideas.
Gao suffers from chronic heart pain, high blood pressure, a form of inner ear disorder called Ménière’s disease, and an undiagnosed chronic skin allergy, according to her family and lawyer. Gao reported to them that her heart pain has become more frequent and severe recently. According to Gao, the Beijing No.1 Detention Center has only administered traditional Chinese medicine for her heart pain, but has not allowed her to take medicines that she took when living at home. Gao’s family and lawyer also say that she has had no access to specialists to assess and treat her conditions.
“It’s bad enough to imprison a journalist on spurious political grounds, but it’s cruel, degrading, and dangerous to then deny necessary medical care,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The Chinese government should send Gao to a hospital for a thorough assessment of her worsening condition immediately.”
Gao is a prominent journalist who started her career at the government wire service in the 1980s. She later was vice editor of the state-owned Economics Weekly. For reporting on and supporting the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, Gao was imprisoned from June 1989 to August 1990. She was imprisoned again from 1993 to 1999 on charges of “illegally providing state secrets abroad” after being accused of leaking policy decisions taken by senior officials of the CCP that had already been reported in the Hong Kong press.
On April 24, 2014, Gao was detained for leaking “Document Number 9,” an internal notice by the Chinese Communist Party warning its members against “seven perils” including “universal values” such as human rights. Gao was sentenced to seven years in prison on April 17, 2015. Gao has since appealed, but it is unclear when the appeals verdict will be handed down or if the court will open to hear the case, according to her lawyer. Once Gao exhausts the appeal process, she will be transferred from Beijing No.1 Detention Center to a prison.
Conditions in China’s detention facilities are poor and usually marked by overcrowding, minimal nutrition, and rudimentary health care. According to relevant regulations governing detention centers, if detainees are seriously ill they “can be” sent to outside hospitals designated by the detention center.