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China 7 October 2004

French President Chirac urged to use Chengdu visit to press for release of cyberdissident Huang Qi

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) has called on French President Jacques Chirac, due to visit Chengdu on 8-9 October, to press for the release of website creator Huang Qi, imprisoned in the Sichuan capital for "subversion".

Mr Chirac’s visit to Chengdu is linked to strong economic ties between China and France. The fate of a young entrepreneur, jailed in very harsh conditions for starting a popular website that upset the authorities should not therefore be forgotten, it said.

The webmaster was arrested on 3 June 2000, on the eve of the 11th anniversary of the 4 June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. He was charged under Articles 103 and 105 of the criminal code and sentenced to five years in prison for "subversion".

The charges related to articles Qi posted on the US-hosted site written by foreign-based dissidents about the Tiananmen Square massacre. He had originally set up the site as a notice board for missing persons in China.

French journalist Patrick Poivre d’Arvor of French TV channel TF1 went to Chengdu in October 2003 where he interviewed Qi’s wife, Zeng Li, who despite the risks to herself spoke out about the brutality meted out to her husband in jail.

"Yes," Zeng said. "He was beaten. He has a long scar on his forehead and he has lost a tooth (...) "He went into a coma once for several days after being badly beaten. Former fellow inmates told me he was beaten on his genitals. (...) "He refuses to stop writing in prison, so the guards beat him regularly. I think they have orders from their superiors to beat him."

Reporters Without Borders also called for the release of 60 other imprisoned Chinese cyberdissidents and Internet-users.

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