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‘Today, I Must Break My Silence’: Veteran Journalist Gao Yu

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Qiao Long  |  Radio Free Asia

Journalist Gao Yu was sent on a forced “vacation” in southwestern China to remove her from Beijing when China’s parliament convened (RFA)

Veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu on Friday defied an official ban on giving media interviews to speak out in anger at the demolition of her garden by local urban management officers, known in China as “chengguan.”

The Beijing Municipal Bureau of City Administration and Law Enforcement sent the “chengguan,” plainclothes law enforcers widely despised in China for their use of violence, to tear down what they said were an illegal garden and wall outside her Beijing home.

Gao, 72, had a seven-year jail term for “leaking state secrets overseas” cut on appeal to five years by the Beijing High People’s Court last November.

She was later released to “serve her sentence outside jail,” with a condition attached that she decline to give interviews to the press.

“I haven’t committed any crime, and since I have been serving my time outside jail I haven’t had any contact at all with the media,” she said.

“But today, I must break my silence, because now even my basic right to exist, my right to a home, is threatened,” Gao said.

“This is an example of how Chinese government departments break the law in the processing of enforcing it.”

Gao said her son Zhao Meng, who was roughed up by security guards in the demolition gang who razed her garden, plans to sue for compensation.

“He wants compensation, and he plans to take legal action against the perpetrators, those privately hired security guards,” she said. “The ones who beat him up should be detained.”

She said it would be hard for her local police station to take action, however.

“The chengguan bureau is of the same rank as them, and there is the issue of them protecting each other, too.”

Gao told RFA that the authorities had singled out her garden out of all the others in the neighborhood as containing “illegal structures.”

Raid without judicial procedures

“My neighbors have enclosed their entire courtyard area as part of their indoor area, right next door to me,” she said. “I actually spoke to the state security police about this [beforehand].”

“They seemed to agree to it, and said they’d arbitrate for me by talking to the police chief, who is in charge of the urban management department. That’s why I went ahead with [the work on the garden]. Then they came round at 2.30 p.m. [on Thursday]. There wasn’t even a verbal warning.”

Gao, who suffers from Meuniere’s syndrome and who had several heart attacks in detention, said she had to be led away from the scene by bystanders after she became physically unstable.

She said such demolitions should normally have been authorized by the local court. But in her case, they just sent around a demolition gang, leaving her in a state of shock.

“You should speak to police station chief Wang who was on duty yesterday and ask him why he didn’t show up at the site until an hour after it happened,” Gao said.

“I told him that this should have been authorized by a court, that only they could decide whether this was an illegal structure or not, and whether or not it should be demolished,” she said.

“I also told him that his police officers shouldn’t be the ones to carry out the demolition; that was the job of the judicial police,” Gao said.

Repeated calls to the Hepingjie police station near Gao’s Beijing home were answered and immediately cut off during office hours on Friday.

Copyright © 1998-2016, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036.

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