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China sentences 71-year-old journalist to 7 years in jail for leaking state secrets

  • FILE - In this June 9, 2012 file photo, Chinese journalist Gao Yu attends an opening ceremony of Chinese artist Liu Xia's photo exhibition in Hong Kong. A court in Beijing on Friday, April 17, 2015 sentenced Gao to seven years in prison for leaking a top Communist Party policy document, the latest step in what is seen as a widening clampdown on free speech and civil liberties. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

    FILE - In this June 9, 2012 file photo, Chinese journalist Gao Yu attends an opening ceremony of Chinese artist Liu Xia's photo exhibition in Hong Kong. A court in Beijing on Friday, April 17, 2015 sentenced Gao to seven years in prison for leaking a top Communist Party policy document, the latest step in what is seen as a widening clampdown on free speech and civil liberties. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • People walk near the Beijing No. 3 Intermediate Court in Beijing, Friday, April 17, 2015. Veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu was sentenced to seven years in prison Friday for leaking a document detailing the Communist Party leadership's resolve to aggressively target civil society and press freedom as a threat to its monopoly on power. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

    People walk near the Beijing No. 3 Intermediate Court in Beijing, Friday, April 17, 2015. Veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu was sentenced to seven years in prison Friday for leaking a document detailing the Communist Party leadership's resolve to aggressively target civil society and press freedom as a threat to its monopoly on power. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)  (The Associated Press)

  • Men wait as Chinese policemen stand guard near the Beijing No. 3 Intermediate Court in Beijing, Friday, April 17, 2015. Veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu was sentenced to seven years in prison Friday for leaking a document detailing the Communist Party leadership's resolve to aggressively target civil society and press freedom as a threat to its monopoly on power. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

    Men wait as Chinese policemen stand guard near the Beijing No. 3 Intermediate Court in Beijing, Friday, April 17, 2015. Veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu was sentenced to seven years in prison Friday for leaking a document detailing the Communist Party leadership's resolve to aggressively target civil society and press freedom as a threat to its monopoly on power. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)  (The Associated Press)

A court in Beijing has sentenced veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu to seven years in prison for leaking a top Communist Party policy document.

Friday's sentence comes amid a widening clampdown on free speech that highlights the gap between China's vision of rule of law and Western notions of civil liberties and judicial fairness.

The 71-year-old Gao denied the charges. Gao's lawyer Mo Shaoping said Gao was convicted of leaking state secrets by giving a strategy paper known as Document No. 9 to an overseas media group. The document argued for aggressive curbs on the spread of Western democracy, universal values, civil society and press freedom, which the party considers a threat to its rule.

Gao wrote about politics, economics and social issues for media in Hong Kong and overseas.