Skip to content Skip to navigation

“I’m Worried about Gao Yu and Wait for Her Early Return”

April 6, 2015

An appeal by Ding Zilin (丁子霖), a founding member of the Tiananmen Mothers, to the Chinese authorities to conclude the trial of Gao Yu (高瑜), the widely admired veteran journalist. Gao, 70, was tried in November 2014 for leaking an internal Communist Party document, and faces a life sentence. The Beijing No. 3 Intermediate People's Court has not yet rendered a ruling. She has been held in detention since April 2014. Ding also calls on the international community to pay close attention to the cases of Gao and Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强), a lawyer who was detained in May 2014, after attending a seminar in connection with the 25th anniversary of June Fourth. He was formally arrested June 2014, but has not been tried.

See Chinese original.

I’m Worried about Gao Yu and Wait for Her Early Return
Ding Zilin

[English translation by Human Rights in China]

It’s been almost a year! I have been constantly and silently worried about Gao Yu and waiting for news of her return.

Before the Cultural Revolution, Gao Yu was my student. In 1965, she was in her fourth year at the Department of Language and Literature of Renmin University of China, majoring in literature. I was the teaching assistant in her literary criticism class and also served as the class advisor (namely, political counselor). Nine months later, the Cultural Revolution erupted and all teaching ground to a halt. And I was yanked out by the revolutionary teachers and students. Gao Yu was forthright and principled. She used her role as a student to keep me posted on the situation. Because of her protection, I escaped the misfortune of having to accompany the Department leaders in several struggle sessions.

We have both lived in Beijing for the past half a century. As we are busy with our own lives—especially when our respective careers were going smoothly—we rarely saw one another. But when we did meet, we never ran out of things to talk about. However, we often tended to “pick up the sesame seeds but overlook the watermelons”—dwell on the trivial matters and neglect the important ones—and didn’t have a good understanding of what each other were doing. Nevertheless, we always cared about each other when something happened to either of us.

Our fates have been closely intertwined. Twenty-six years ago, my young son was shot to death in Muxidi during the June Fourth massacre, and Gao was detained prior to the event. She came to visit me in my dormitory at Renmin University just a few days after being released.

In those days, I was struggling between life and death. It was Gao Yu and other friends who pulled me from the brink of taking my own life. And it was at that moment that I broke my silence and started a new life.

I often say to my friends: Gao Yu and I are only eight years apart—while I was her teacher in status, she was in fact the teacher who enlightened me.

Gao Yu and I have always shared a special bond. That’s why, last May during my soft detention at a hospital in Wuxi, I was so stunned when I happened to see her on TV, being paraded on the street in a yellow vest. I couldn’t help but cry out loud, “Bastards. No conscience!” She was already 70 years old. How could they disgrace her like that? I thought to myself: She must have been forced to confess. There must be a backstory to this. My speculation was confirmed when I was allowed to go back to Beijing.

Now she has been behind bars for almost a year now. How can I not worry? How can I not be concerned?

A little more than two years ago, I was out of town when I read her article “Xi Jinping the Man.”[1] It gave me the shivers and an ominous feeling. After I returned to Beijing, I asked a student to help me make an appointment to see her. I will confess to the whole world here that I tried to pull her back at that meeting. I pleaded with her not to write such sensitive pieces anymore. I also said to her something like: “You have already written so much for China’s democracy and freedom. Your contributions are well known. Please don’t take risks like this anymore. Just devoting yourself to caring for your ailing husband and son who doesn’t have steady work will keep you busy enough. . . . .” She listened to me in silence.

Later, I read a quote of Mr. Xi Jinping to American leaders: “The Pacific Ocean is vast enough to accommodate both China and the United States.” I was slightly relieved. I figured Xi, who was big enough to express such accommodating sentiments to China’s top competitor, wouldn’t mind some harsh remarks of a 70-year-old woman journalist. Besides, she was telling the truth, not fabricating rumors.

In spite of this, I was still worried. The next time I met her I quietly nagged her again, hoping that she would reconsider.

Unfortunately, my prediction was confirmed by subsequent developments.

She has been held in detention for almost a year now, since she was first taken on April 24 of last year.

And when the pledge of “governing the country in accordance with the law” was put forward at the Fourth Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee in October 2013, I immediately thought that Gao Yu should be tried soon, “in accordance with the law.” So I patiently waited.

On November 21, 2013, the court finally held the trial. But the trial ended without a verdict, and the ruling deadline was extended for three months later. On March 20 of this year, when the court was scheduled to hold another hearing, the Supreme People’s Court intervened and allowed another three-month extension. It’s said that when the three months are up, the Supreme People’s Court can approve an infinite number of three-month extensions. This is tantamount to a life sentence for someone past 70.

Is this the principle of “govern the country in accordance with the law” that the CPC authorities purport to uphold?

I just can’t hold down my burning rage!

I hereby call on the CPC authorities and relevant departments of the Chinese government to: openly announce Gao Yu’s guilt to the world and sentence her if there is solid evidence to prove her criminality; or, if she has to be held while sufficient and solid evidence still needs to be collected, at least grant her medical parole out of humanitarian considerations, and release her into residential surveillance.

As I am writing this essay for Gao Yu, the image of another lawyer came to my mind—he is lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, another long-time friend of mine. It was he who sponsored our Chinese New Year dinner gathering of family members of June Fourth victims this February, where I gave everyone a special introduction to Pu Zhiqiang. He was detained in May 2014, after attending a forum commemorating the 25th anniversary of June Fourth along with several other participants. He has also been detained for almost a year now. Just as in the case of Gao Yu, the court did not issue a verdict, only continuously delays the ruling.

If there is solid evidence, convict. If not, release. Do everything “in accordance with the law.” Isn’t this what the pronouncement of “governing the country in accordance with the law” at the 18th CPC Central Committee is all about? Please don’t defile this hallowed slogan.

I also would like to appeal to leaders of all countries in the international community and all human rights organizations to pay close attention to the human rights condition in China, and the misfortune and situation of Gao Yu, Pu Zhiqiang, and others.

April 6, 2015, Wuxi, Jiangsu Province


[1] A critique of Xi Jinping (男儿习近平), published on the Deutsche Welle website in January 2013. English translation by ChinaChange.