Gao Yu, age 79, is a Chinese journalist with a conscience who dares to report the undiluted truth as she finds it.
She is a long-standing newspaper reporter and online columnist. During her long career as a champion of truth and press freedom, she has been repeatedly harassed, arrested, and imprisoned by the Chinese Communist authorities.
She is an indomitable soul, a woman of integrity, and insists on reporting the facts. Internationally, she has received numerous awards from human rights organizations and press freedom monitors.
From childhood, Gao Yu has always believed that journalism is a sacred calling
Gao Yu was born in Chongqing, Sichuan Province, in February 1944. She aspired to become a journalist in middle school, believing journalism was a sacred profession, “like a bee that could fly freely, collect pollen from the flowers, and make sweet honey to give back to the world.”
It was with such a naïve and romantic ideal that she was admitted to the Language and Literature Department of the Renmin University of China before the Cultural Revolution, where she majored in Literary Theory.
In 1980, during the period of Reform and Opening-up (改革开放) in China, Gao Yu was hired by China News Service and became an official reporter. Since then, she has also worked as a freelance journalist for Hong Kong Chinese newspapers.
The same old brute Communism disguised as ‘economic reform and opening-up’
On July 4, 1987, when Chairman Deng Xiaoping met with Bangladesh President Ershad, he talked about “Two Basics: Chinese Economic Reform and Four Cardinal Principles.” His idea of “One Center” meant taking economic development as the central focus of the Chinese state, and such development should co-occur through the “Two Basics” that adhere to the “four cardinal principles” and persist in reform and open up.
Since then, the mouthpieces of the Communist Party of China (CCP) have publicized the “One Center, Two Basics” with great fanfare as the general principle and policy of socialist modernization, the national policy.
Censored and imprisoned by the CCP, she held fast to her ethical principles
In 1988, Gao Yu became deputy chief editor of Economics Weekly, edited by dissident intellectuals.
In 1989, Li Peng said she was a journalist with authority reporting on the June 4 Tiananmen Square Massacre. The Communist Party of China (CCP) suspected her of being involved in the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement, and she was arrested and imprisoned in Qincheng Prison. She was released a year later.
In 1994, the CCP accused her of having published state secrets (that were already published) and sentenced her to six years in prison. In 1999, she was paroled on health grounds. Although in poor health, she continued to write and contribute articles abroad. After her release from prison, she was placed under house arrest.
In 2014, she was again arrested and sentenced for leaking state secrets and was released in 2019.
Although the CCP has repeatedly beaten and oppressed her, she has always adhered to her original intention of being an honorable and ethical journalist, and insisted on the authenticity of news reports. She sacrificed her youth, her physical health, and even her son, who was implicated, to fight for press freedom.
A courageous role model for her international peers
In 2020, she broke her arm in a fall and suffered a comminuted fracture, had three surgeries, and her elbow joint remains cast in metal. After her son graduated from university and started working, the authorities forced her son’s workplace to fire him, and he has been unemployed for three years. Gao Yu’s husband has been dead for 20 years, and Gao Yu and her son rely on her monthly income of 3,000 yuan.
The CCP blocked her from contact with the outside world; her Weibo and WeChat accounts were blocked. National security agents continued to spy on her and harass her. She is banned from posting on overseas social media, Twitter. Over the years, her tenacious will and dedication to upholding the truth have become a role model for her international peers.
Decorated with high honors and awards for her integrity and heroism
In 1995, Gao Yu received the “Golden Pen of Freedom Award” from the World Association of Newspapers. The same year, she received the “Courage in Journalism Award” from the International Women’s Media Foundation.
In 1997, she became the first journalist to receive the “World Press Freedom Prize” of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In 2000, she was named one of the International Press Institute’s first 50 “World Press Freedom Heroes of the 20th Century.”
In China, a true journalist is a scarce man or woman. Consider their plight; they are all dead, in jail, working underground, in hiding for their lives, or waiting for the knock on their doors. In a land with no free press, freedom of expression, or faith, all that’s left is survival.