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China: Journalist Gao Qinrong released five years early

Reporters Without Borders expressed huge relief at the early release of journalist Gao Qinrong, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 1999 for exposing a corruption scandal implicating top provincial officials.

Gao, who worked for the official Xinhua news agency, was arrested on 4 December 1998 after writing about corruption linked to an irrigation project in Shanxi province in central China. He was sentenced on 28 April 1999 for “corruption” and pimping.

He was freed nearly five years before the end of his original sentence after benefiting from a third successive reduction in his term for “good behaviour” in jail. He was given similar reductions in 2002 and 2004.

"Gao Qinrong, who was unfairly sentenced to a very harsh prison term, has already paid very dearly for his work as a journalist investigating the corruption which is poisoning China,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“We are delighted at his release but it is important to point out that this journalist has already spent eight years of his life in prison and that 31 other journalists are currently in prison for trying to freely inform the Chinese public”, it added.

Gao confirmed to Reporters Without Borders by phone that he had been freed at 3pm on 7 December 2006 from Prison N°1 in Qixian, Shanxi province, southwest of Beijing.

“My health is not too bad. I just need to rest at home now, but I plan on going before the courts so as to be acquitted,” he said from his home in Taiyuan, Shanxi province.

Gao expressed strong anxiety about threats from people whom he had named in his investigations. One of his co-defendants was beaten up by henchmen in the pay of an official on the very day of his release, in 2003. Mindful of this, Gao got police and prison authorities to agree to drive him home in an official vehicle and to put him under protection.

The journalist’s family and former colleagues have warned him to be careful, for fear that former officials could try to revenge themselves on him in connection with articles which appeared in the media in 1998.

Gao Qinrong, now 51, expressed gratitude for the support of journalists, media and Reporters Without Borders, which defended him and supported his wife during his long years in detention. Several western countries had put his name on a list of political prisoners whose release they were requesting.

Over 16 years ago, Reporters without Borders created its "Sponsorship Programme" and called upon the international media to select and support an imprisoned journalist. More than two hundreds news staffs around the globe are thus sponsoring colleagues by regularly petitioning authorities for their release and by publicising their situations so that their cases will not be forgotten. Currently, Gao Qinrong is sponsored by Club de la presse de Baden Baden, Club de la presse de Clermont-ferrand, Club de la presse du Pays Basque, France 2, France bleu pays d’Auvergne, France Info, Journalistes.ch - bulletin de la Fédération suisse des journalistes, La Vanguardia, L’Indépendant, L’Union du Cantal, le Semeur hebdo, Maison de la presse de Mons, Mémoire de trame, Midi Libre, Milhistorias, Svenska Nyhetsbrev, Pressens Tidning, RNE, Södermanlands Nyheter, Miljörapporten, Télé bruxelles, Tele5, VSD, El Pais, Antena 3, Letherbridge Herald, Edmonton Sun, Mairie de Longeau, En Marche, Association des journalistes pour la nature et l’économie, Fun Radio, 98.5 FM (Montréal)

Date posted: December 11, 2006 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 10