Gao, 62, won the IWMF’s Courage in Journalism Award in 1995 but was unable to receive her award due to her imprisonment in China.
An economic and political reporter, Gao was sentenced in 1993 to six years in prison for "leaking state secrets," through – ironically – a pro-Chinese government newspaper in Hong Kong.
Gao was released on medical parole in March 1999, but the terms of her release restricted her from speaking with reporters. She completed the remainder of her jail term at home and returned to journalism as a correspondent and independent commentator for magazines such as Open and The Trend in Hong Kong.
In 1962, Gao enrolled in the Chinese Language and Literature department of Renmin University of China. She initially intended to major in news media, but these courses were cancelled because of the Great Chinese Famine, which killed millions of people. Gao’s graduation from the university was delayed for a year due to the Cultural Revolution; during this time, various aspects of the government were halted, including economic activity and education systems. Gao eventually obtained a degree in literature theory.
After college, Gao held various reporting and editing positions. She was a reporter for China News from 1980-1988, the deputy editor-in-chief of the weekly publication Economics from 1988-1989 and a correspondent for the Hong Kong newspaper Mirror from 1990-1993.
During the 1980s, Gao became known for her investigative pieces on economic issues and her interviews with many of the major architects of reform. Though she was placed under house arrest, Gao’s writings were instrumental in the Chinese 1989 pro-democracy movement. Her willingness to jeopardize her safety and career in the service of freedom, democracy and human rights significantly contributed to the free press movement. She won the Golden Pen of Freedom in 1995 from the Federation of International Editors of Journals.
Gao initially received the IWMF Courage in Journalism Award in 1995 but was unable to accept it due to her imprisonment.