Reporters Without Borders deplores the way the police in Chengdu (in the central province of Sichuan) have been treating human rights activist Huang Qi since his arrest on 10 July for “illegal possession of state secrets,” a charge that carries a possible three-year prison sentence. The police have been refusing him his right to be visited by his lawyer.
“By preventing Huang from seeing his lawyer, the Chinese authorities are yet again demonstrating that nothing has changed in China as regards free expression,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Huang is the 49th cyber-dissident to be imprisoned in China for trying to promote democracy and freedom of expression online. We urge the authorities to free him pending his trial.”
The Chengdu police told his family on 10 July that the results of their investigation had already been passed to the prosecutor's office, which now has three months to take a decision.
Huang's wife, Zeng Li, told Reporters Without Borders: “I am very upset about my husband and I do not understand what is pushing the authorities to bring this charge against him. All Huang did was report what things were like for the victims after the Sichuan earthquake.”
Huang's lawyer, Mo Shaoping, contacted the Chengdu police on 18 July to request his right to visit, but it was refused. Mo said formal notification of Huang's arrest had been provided to his mother earlier on 18 July but the notification was not clear.
Every since the 12 May earthquake in Sichuan, the 44-year-old Huang had been posting articles on his website, 64Tianwang, criticising the way the relief was being organised.
He wrote on 20 May: “The reports we are seeing are biased. In reality, it is very difficult for NGOs to deliver food aid. They are obliged to go through government channels. The government is using its propaganda to portray itself as a saviour to little avail. Few citizens trust the government because of the corruptions scandals that already occurred during similar disasters in the past.”
Huang originally created his website, www.64tianwang.com, as bulletin board for messages about missing persons. Reporters Without Borders awarded him its Cyber-Freedom Prize in 2004 for his online defence of free expression and human rights. A petition for his release has circulated in Chengdu and other regions hit by the earthquake.
Huang spent five years in Nanchong high security prison (in the northeast of Sichuan province) after being arrested on 3 June 2000, the eve of the 11th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. He was charged with subversion under articles 103 and 105 of the criminal code for posting articles about the massacre by exiled dissidents on his website.
He has serious health problems as a result the violence he underwent during his first spell in prison, when the authorities refused to provide him with appropriate treatment.
Copy of the indictment of Huang that was issued by the Chengdu police at 3 p.m. (Beijing time) on 18 July