China detains journalist on charges of leaking state secrets

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Chinese authorities have detained an outspoken journalist and political activist accused of providing state secrets to foreign contacts, the official Xinhua News Agency said on Thursday, and state television aired images of her making a confession.

The arrest of journalist Gao Yu is the latest in a string of detentions that critics say shows Chinese leaders' sensitivity to dissent ahead of the 25th anniversary of a crackdown on a pro-democracy movement around Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

Gao, who previously worked for state media, was a prominent supporter of the pro-democracy protests in 1989. She was jailed in 1993 for six years on charges of divulging state secrets.

On Thursday morning, the official China Central Television showed Gao, with her face blurred out, confessing. "I believe what I have done has violated the law and has harmed the interests of (my) country," Gao said.

"What I have done is extremely wrong. I will earnestly and sincerely take a lesson from this, and I admit my guilt."

Gao is accused of illegally obtaining a highly confidential document and sending an electronic copy of it to a website abroad in June last year, Xinhua said, citing a police statement.

She was detained on April 24, Xinhua said. Gao's friends became concerned after she missed a low-key gathering of activists late last month to commemorate a key event in the lead up to the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

A prominent free-speech lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, was also among those detained earlier.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, in a statement on April 28, noted that Gao's detention was part of a pattern. "It has been a government tradition to start cracking down on protesters, critics, and dissidents before April 15, and this year is no different," the statement said.