The sentence was passed on the 64-year-old Qin by an intermediate court in the central city of Wuhan on 11 July, just one day after the Chinese authorities released Liu Xia, the widow of Nobel peace and RSF Press Freedom laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died last year in detention.
“The democracies barely had time to celebrate Liu Xia’s release when the Chinese authorities created a new martyr who risks suffering the same fate as Liu Xiaobo,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia desk. “Sentencing a man of his age to 13 years in prison is tantamount to a death sentence given the shortcomings of China’s prison system and its deliberate policy of denying medical attention to detainees.”
Qin has been held since March 2015, when he was arrested for “illegal assembly” and for allegedly using “the Internet and foreign media” to try to “overthrow the authority of the Chinese Communist Party.”
A former steelworker and long-time dissident who founded the pro-democracy magazine The Bell in the 1970s, Qin headed China Human Rights Watch, a group also known as the “Rose Team” that called for peaceful transition to a constitutional democracy. He had already spent 22 years in prisons and work camps before his arrest in 2015, and his wife, Zhao Suli, is currently under house arrest.
Liu Xia, who was allowed to fly to Germany after her release, had been confined to her home and isolated by the Chinese authorities ever since her imprisoned husband was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2010. He was serving an 11-year prison sentence when he died almost exactly year ago from a cancer of the liver left unattended in prison.
One of world’s biggest jailers of journalists and defenders of the freedom to inform, China is ranked 176th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.