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China 8 October 2003

Five-year jail sentence upheld on appeal against webmaster Huang Qi

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières) has managed to confirm that a five-year jail sentence for "subversion" was upheld on appeal against webmaster Huang Qi, in August 2003.

The organisation said it was disturbed by the court’s decision, delivered at a secret hearing. It has also learned that Huang has been moved to a prison further away from his home and that his wife has still not been allowed to visit him.

"For humanitarian reasons it is essential that Huang’s wife is allowed to visit him," said Reporters Without Borders, adding that violence to which he was often subjected, was unacceptable.

The organisation called on the international community to lobby for his release and for that of 37 other cyberdissidents and Internet users who are in jail in China.

Friends of Huang Qi said his appeal was heard in the week of 10 August and that it upheld the five-year jail term handed down at the earlier hearing. Huang, who created the Internet site, had been held in detention since June 2000 for "attempting to overthrow the state". His wife, Zeng Li, was informed of the court decision at the end of August. The two lawyers who defended Hung as far as the appeal, had come under strong pressure from the authorities and decided to withdraw from the case. They also advised his wife not to launch a fresh appeal.

During the appeal hearing, guards are said to have ill-treated Huang, holding him down by the throat when he tried to protest at the fast track nature of the case.

Huang was moved in September 2003 to Chuan Zhong prison (200 kms east of the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu where he was held previously) but his wife has still not been permitted to see him. She sent him several letters that never arrived. She has to find nearly 500 RMB (yuans) a month to ensure that he is properly fed. Only his former lawyers have been occasionally permitted to visit him.

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