Award-winning Chinese journalist Gao Yu, who was convicted of “leaking” a Communist Party secret document to an overseas website, has had her sentence reduced from seven to five years following an appeal hearing on Thursday.

Gao’s lawyers told the New York Times that they will apply for the 71-year-old to serve the rest of her sentence outside of prison on medical grounds, as she suffers from high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases.

gao yu sentence reduction
Gao Yu.

Gao was arrested in April 2014 for allegedly sending the US-based Mirror Media Group a copy of a party directive asking officials and universities to guard against seven Western ideological concepts including civil rights and press freedom. Prosecutors claimed this document to be classified although its full script is available online, such as on this school website.

After her arrest, the veteran journalist appeared on national TV confessing to the crime of “leaking state secrets”. But later in her trial she said that she”confessed” as police had threatened her son’s safety, Gao’s lawyer Mo Shaoping told Apple Daily following her conviction in April this year.

gao yu sentence reduction
An international campaign to free Gao Yu. Photo: democracychronicles.

Gao was arrested in 1989 for reporting and taking part in the pro-democracy student protests which ended in a bloody crackdown on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. She was jailed for six years in 1994 for leaking state secrets.

The 71-year-old has won many press freedom awards since 1995, including the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Association of Newspapers’ Golden Pen of Freedom Award.

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.