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International rights groups call for release of seriously ill Chinese journalist Gao Yu

Fifteen organisations urge president Xi Jinping to free Gao Yu, others

Pro-democracy protesters hold up signs during a demonstration calling for the release of Chinese journalist Gao Yu outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong April 17, 2015.
Pro-democracy protesters hold up signs during a demonstration calling for the release of Chinese journalist Gao Yu outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong April 17, 2015.

REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Fifteen human rights and press freedom organizations are urging Chinese President Xi Jinping to immediately release seriously ill journalist Gao Yu from prison. In a letter, the organizations also called for the release of all those held for the peaceful expression of their political views and in need of medical attention, as well as access to adequate medical care for all prisoners.

Gao, 71, has been incarcerated since her apprehension in April 2014 for allegedly leaking an internal Chinese Communist Party document disparaging human rights. In April 2015, she was convicted after an unfair trial and sentenced to seven years in prison. Gao suffers from chronic heart pain, high blood pressure, and other diseases. After her detention center allowed her a full checkup, a doctor found signs of blockages in her heart arteries and abnormal lymph node growth that could be malign.

“Since Gao Yu's unjust imprisonment, her health has only deteriorated further,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “Beijing has shown cruel disregard for the health of imprisoned critics of the government, as evidenced by the deaths in custody of Cao Shunli and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. Gao should be released immediately to get the medical care she needs.”

The organizations called on President Xi to:

• Immediately release journalist Gao Yu;
• Release all prisoners – especially those in poor health – incarcerated for the peaceful exercise of their political views;
• Ensure that all prisoners receive prompt access to adequate medical care;
• Accept an independent, international investigation into the deaths in custody of Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and activist Cao Shunli; and
• Allow prison visits by the United Nations expert on torture.

The 15 organizations include Amnesty International, 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, Human Rights Watch, Independent Chinese PEN Center, Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, PEN American Center, Reporters Without Borders, Solidarité Chine, and Tiananmen Mothers Campaign.

Committee to Protect Journalists
Freedom House
Human Rights Watch
PEN American Center
Reporters Without Borders
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