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China 28 February 2003

Court verdict on cyber-dissident Huang Qi again postponed

Reporters Without Borders protested strongly against today’s new court postponement of a verdict on Chinese cyber-dissident Huang Qi, whose trial for allegedly "trying to overthrow the government" ended more than 18 months ago.

"The inability of the court to prove his guilt is the best proof of his innocence," said the press freedom organisation, calling on the United States, the European Union and other countries to press for his release. It noted that the new delay, announced by the first intermediate people’s court of Chengdu (in the southwestern province of Sichuan) far exceeded Chinese legal provisions.

Huang Qi, owner and webmaster of the Internet site, has been imprisoned since June 2000 and his trial ended in August 2001

His wife Zeng Li, who has never been allowed to visit him since his arrest, told Reporters Without Borders she was very worried about his health. "I no longer have any word about his conditions of detention. I have had no letter from him, nothing written concerning him except the warrant for his arrest." She said he needed medication but that the prison authorities had never provided him with it.

Huang’s family waited outside the court today in anticipation of seeing the 39-year-old accused and hearing the verdict. After two hours, they learned it had again been postponed. The case had already been sent back to the prosecutor twice, apparently for lack of evidence. His wife said the legal time limits had never been observed right from the beginning of the case.

Huang was arrested on 3 June 2000 - the day before the 11th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre - and was charged under articles 103 and 105 of the criminal code. He was accused of posting on his website articles about the massacre written by dissidents living abroad. He had set up the site to put out news about people who had disappeared in China.

Huang Qi was jailed in July 2000 at Chendu’s detention centre no.1. Former cellmates said he was beaten regularly and denied medicine he needed.

At least 36 cyber-dissidents are in prison in China for posting material on the Internet that the Chinese Communist Party considers "subversive."

Reporters Without Borders recalls that the cyberdissident Huang Qi is sponsored by the French websites and L’ and by the Belgian ones, and the newspaper Coup d’œil vers l’avenir.

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