Veteran Chinese journalist released after appeal ruling

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Chinese journalist Gao Yu has been released from prison after an appeal court ruled that she could spend the remainder of her sentence at home on health grounds, her family said Friday.

The court on Thursday cut the 71-year-old’s sentence from seven to five years. She was released that evening, and is now staying with her son in Beijing.

“Her mood and psychological state of mind seem quite good, but she has lost a lot of weight,” her brother Gao Wei told dpa Friday.

“Her hair has turned white. She has aged substantially,” he said.

Gao’s lawyer Mo Shaoping said Thursday that doctors and the court had judged her “unsuited to serve time in prison, so she can stay at home and see doctors,” as long as she follows certain conditions.

It is unclear whether Gao will be able to serve the entire sentence at home, and what kind of surveillance she will be put under, although she must tell authorities in advance if she wants to travel to a different city.

Gao was known for her hard-hitting reports on elite politics and was a regular contributor to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

She was found guilty in April of passing documents to people outside the country.

The nature of the documents had not been confirmed but it appears to have been due to passing on party documents in which there was a call for a fight against Western ideas.

The rare appeal hearing this week came after an outcry from journalists and international human rights activists angry at her sentencing and imprisonment earlier this year.

The German government has repeatedly urged the Chinese authorities to free Gao.

The move to release her was a “provisional decision,” her brother said. “This means that she can be taken back into custody whenever they want,” he said.

China has the largest number of journalists currently held behind bars, at 44, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

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