New York, March 30, 2012--Authorities in Chongqing must clarify the status of a journalist who reports say was secretly sentenced to prison in 2010 for criticizing a government official in a personal blog, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. CPJ has not been able to independently confirm the journalist's jail sentence or his whereabouts.
An online appeal for Gao Yingpu, described as a professional journalist who has worked for publications such as the Guangdong-based Asia Pacific Economic Times newspaper, was published online in China on March 23, according to the U.S. government-funded Voice of America. The appeal said Gao was sentenced in a secret trial in 2010 to a three-year prison term for criticizing disgraced Chongqing city Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai. On Wednesday, the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders reported that the journalist's wife had confirmed his July 2010 arrest as well as his sentence on charges of endangering state security.
Gao had criticized Bo's "smash black" campaign to destroy organized gangs in his online blog, which was hosted by the instant messaging company Tencent QQ, according to the exile-run news website Boxun News. Bo, who helped imprison former CPJ International Press Freedom Award-winner Jiang Weiping for five years to quash coverage of official corruption, was fired this month amid rumors of wrongdoing.
"Bo Xilai has a long and disgraceful record of silencing his critics through harsh, unjust means," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. "We are deeply concerned by reports that Gao Yingpu may have been imprisoned for challenging Bo's policies."
In a report published in Boxun News, an unidentified former classmate of Gao said the journalist's wife, a teacher, had signed a written promise not to publicize the case. As a result, Gao had no legal representation or ability to appeal, and his family and friends were told he was working in Iraq, Boxun News reported. CPJ's calls to Gao's wife, whose full name was not published, went unanswered on Friday.
"It's a huge irony that Gao, who was always a media man, could not go through the media to publicize his own grievances once he was accused of free speech crimes," the Boxun News report said.
At least 4,781 people were imprisoned in 10 months during Bo's 2009 anti-gang campaign, including many who were wrongfully convicted, The New York Times reported. In an article published Thursday, U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia asked whether Gao's case would prove to be among those unjust prosecutions.