After speaking yesterday with Zeng Li, the wife of imprisoned cyber-dissident Huang Qi, Reporters Without Borders today publishes a transcript of her comments, in which she appeals to the international community and describes his arrest as “unfair and unacceptable.”
Huang has been held since 10 June in Chengdu, the capital of the western province of Sichuan, for posting articles on his website 64Tianwang (www.64tianwang.com) about the humanitarian situation in the province after the 12 May earthquake and how international aid was mismanaged by the local authorities.
“Huang is the victim of the Chinese judicial system’s lack of independence,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The proceedings are not advancing and his family has no choice but to wait until the authorities deign to look at his case. His lawyer’s requests to see him are being denied, he has not been able to get any medical treatment although his health is deteriorating, and no date has been set for his trial. We support his wife’s appeal and we reiterate our call for his release.”
Huang was charged three weeks ago, on 18 July, with “illegal possession of state secrets” but he will not be allowed his first meeting with his lawyer until 18 September.
The following is a transcript of Zeng’s comments (to be heard in Chinese).
“Huang Qi is a cyber-dissident and online journalist who has fought hard in recent years so that the inhabitants of Sichuan can have access to better information. He has exposed the injustices they have suffered, and none of his articles has been disputed by the authorities. During the earthquake, his work helped to improve the humanitarian situation. He did everything he could to get equipment where it was needed and to help transport relief aid. He did what any Chinese citizen would have done.
Huang Qi posted articles on his website that included statements by parents who lost their children when schools collapsed during the earthquake. This is what fueled the anger of the authorities and it was for this reason that he was arrested. He is charged with ‘illegal possession of state secrets.’ It is a totally unfair and unacceptable decision.
Various political leaders and the government have said on several occasions that the human rights situation would improve in China. But the authorities have not kept their promises and they maintain their repressive policies towards freedom of expression. And now they have taken Huang Qi’s freedom of expression away from him. It is absurd.
Huang Qi still has very violent headaches as a result of the mistreatment and torture he underwent the last time he was imprisoned. He is being held in the absence of any valid legal grounds and he is being treated in an inhumane manner that violates the basic principle of human dignity. Within Huang Qi’s family, we worry a lot about his health. Thanks to Reporters Without Borders, we hope this appeal will be heard and diplomatic means will be deployed to end this situation.”
1999: Creation of the 64Tianwang website, with the original aim of posting information about people missing in Sichuan province.
2000 - 2005: Huang is arrested on 3 June 2000 and is given a five-year prison sentence on a “subversion” charge for posting articles on his website about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre that were written by exiled dissidents. He is tortured while held in Nanchong high security prison.
2004 : Reporters Without Borders awards Huang its “Cyber-Freedom” prize for defending free expression and human rights online.
2005 : Huang Qi is free
20 May 2008: Huang posts an article on the 64Tianwang site criticising the Chinese media’s coverage of the earthquake: “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.”
10 June 2008: Huang is arrested by three policemen in Chengdu and is held in the city’s main prison.
10 July 2008: The police confirm to his family that the results of their investigation have been passed to the prosecutor’s office, which now has three months to reach a decision.