Zeng Li, the wife of jailed website creator Huang Qi, accused the Chinese authorities of persecuting and torturing her husband in an exclusive interview with French TV station TF1’s news presenter Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, conducted in Chengdu in southwestern China and broadcast during the TF1 8 pm news programme yesterday.
A transcript of the entire interview, including parts not broadcast by TF1, is available in English on www.rsf.org.
"Yes, he was beaten. He has a long scar on his forehead and he has lost a tooth," Zeng said in the interview, which she gave despite the dangers it entailed. "He went into a coma once for several days after being badly beaten. Former fellow inmates told me he was beaten on his genitals."
Zeng told Poivre d’Arvor she feared her husband would not be released at the end of his sentence: "They never stick to dates and deadlines." Zeng, who has been allowed to see her husband only once, in October 2003, accused the prison authorities of persecuting him. "He refuses to stop writing in prison, so the guards beat him regularly. I think they have orders from their superiors to beat him."
Arrested on 3 June 2000, on the eve of the 11th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 4 June 1989, Huang was prosecuted under articles 103 and 105 of the criminal code and was sentenced to five years in prison for subversion. His offence was to have posted articles by foreign-based dissidents about the Tiananmen Square massacre on his website, which is hosted on a server in the United States. Huang originally created a site to carry notices about missing persons in China.
Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of Huang and the 42 other Chinese cyber-dissidents being held for posting pro-democracy articles and messages on the Internet.
TF1 interview with ZENG Li, wife of HUANG Qi
Patrick Poivre d’Arvor: How long has your husband been in prison?
Zeng Li: He was arrested on 3 June 2000, so more than three years now.
Ppda: How much longer has he to serve in prison?
ZL: The court sentenced him to 5 years imprisonment, so until 4 June 2005.
Ppda: Do you think he will be released on that date?
Zl: I’m not sure, because from the beginning, none of the dates have been respected. (short pause)...They have never followed or respected legal procedures. So I cannot tell at all if he will be released when the prison term ends.
Ppda: Have you seen your husband?
Zl: Yes, I saw him in prison once. That day the whole family went - eight of us. In the reception area of the prison, we saw Huang Qi for 30 minutes and spoke using a telephone. At the same time, we saw other prisoners who were having meals with visiting family members, but we were not allowed to do so. Huang Qi had a guard behind him and there was another next to us. Before we saw Huang face to face, a guard told us he kept writing, asking for an appeal hearing. The guard asked us to try to persuade him to stop writing. Therefore when we met, we asked him to stop, as there were guards with us and the telephone conversation was being recorded. We simply told him stop writing in prison, because we were so worried we wouldn’t be able to see him again.
Ppda: What has your husband advised you and your son to do?
Zl : That day my husband was unhappy that I was staying in China with our son. He wanted us to go abroad for our safety. Although there is only one more year of the sentence left, he fears that he won’t be released at the end. He wants us to go abroad to a safer place.
Ppda: Do you want to leave China?
Zl: Of course if possible, I hope my son can be brought up in a safer place, in foreign country with a better learning environment, so that he can have a more civilised education.
Ppda: What do you want your son to do when he grows up?
Zl: I hope he can work in the scientific field. I hope he can grow up happily in our country.
Ppda: Do you think China will become a freer country in the future?
Zl: I hope China will improve.
Ppda: Is it dangerous for you to talk to us?
Zl: All I am telling you is the truth. I’m just saying what a Chinese person can say. I’m not afraid, although I don’t know what will happen to me later. I believe I should express my personal opinions.
Ppda: On camera, what do you want to say about your husband to the Chinese authorities?
Zl: I want to say that while central government policy may be satisfactory, when it comes to the municipal (district) level, those officials are getting it wrong. I hope the government will pay more attention to what their local bureaucrats are doing, particularly in obeying the law. They should not judge people unfairly.
Ppda: Do you think your husband has done anything wrong. Did he only criticise corruption?
Zl: I am sure my husband is not guilty. He may have criticised some people he felt were wrong, but that does not make him guilty. In China these days we talk about democracy and the law. If we are found guilty just because we express our views, this is impossible.
Ppda: How old is your son?
Zl: My son is now 12 years old.
Ppda: Do his school friends know his father is in prison?
Zl: My son is in a private school. Two years ago, I had problems raising him, and I wanted to put him with a family who could raise him more normally and in a more peaceful environment, without being adversely affected by our problems. But later with the moral and economic support of my family and friends, I managed to keep my son and send him to a private school. When Huang Qi was arrested, the police told me once that if we refused to co-operate with the authorities, we would not be allowed to stay in our home town of Chengdu and our son could not go to the state school any more.
Ppda: Do the people who run the private school know about your problems?
Zl: We are trying to hide the situation about his father, because we are afraid that our son’s life may be affected and he may be denied the chance to go to school.
Ppda: Are you in danger? Are your mobile phone conversations etc. tapped?
Zl: It seems I no longer have a private life. I feel like I am always under surveillance.
Ppda: Do you want us to go to the prison where your husband is? Would it do any good?
Zl: There should be no problem if you just go to the entrance and stay outside. Anybody can go anywhere they want. I think this will arouse their attention. I don’t know if your visit will have bad repercussions for him.
Ppda: Has he been tortured in prison?
Zl: Yes, beaten up. He has a long scar on his head and a tooth fell out. People, who were held in the same prison as him, who have since been released, have told me he was tortured a lot, beaten up and locked up. Once he was in coma for several days after being beaten. His friends and he himself also told me once he was hit in his ’genitals and that he lost a lot of blood. Since then he has terrible headaches and a lot of pain.
Ppda: Have any other people in the prison been tortured?
Zl: Compared with the others, Huang Qi’s torture has been worse. He has been tortured more severely because he keeps refusing the prison staff’s orders to stop writing. I think higher level officials have ordered the guards to torture him. I remember the day we went to court because we had heard that Huang Qi was going on trial. I took my camera, hoping to take a photo of him, secretly. The court guards saw me taking photos and they were very perturbed, as they don’t like to see journalists attending court. So as soon as they saw me taking photos, they seized my camera immediately and confiscated it. Then two guards came over to me and explained they were just doing their duty and could not help it and hoped I understood.
Ppda: What does he continue to write about prison?
Zl: He mainly writes about corruption among bureaucrats, how he has been tortured in prison, his hope for more democracy in China and for citizens’ right to express their opinions freely.
Ppda: Has he managed to get what he has written out of the prison?
Zl: He asked the prison guards to send part of it out for him, which is perfectly legal. But some of the guards refused to do so and there has been conflict between them. The harder ones told him to stop writing and even beat him. Thanks to his friends in the previous prison who have since been released I have got hold of some writings. I only received part of these writings, because some must have been confiscated as they left the prison.
Ppda: Can you show us his writings?
Zl: These are letters written by him in prison, some are what he thinks of books he has been reading.
Ppda: So he wrote these in prison? ...These are the articles?
Zl: These are his views of the books he read and his opinions...
Ppda: Is he allowed to read in prison?
Zl: Before he read a lot of books, he loves reading. In prison he has had access to books on law and legal systems, and he wrote his views about them.
Ppda: So what is this?
Zl: These are articles written by him before his arrest. I have kept them. There are also some articles written by me about legal procedures, in the hope of helping his legal defence.
Ppda: Have you received letters from him?
Zl: I have never received letters from him in his own name. And in the same way he never received letters I wrote to him under my name. But he has written to me using a false name and I received them.
Ppda: Is this a letter written by your son?
Zl: This is a card written by my son to his father on the first Christmas after he was arrested. But we could not manage to send it, so we kept it.
Ppda Can your son read this to us?
The boy: "Dear father, New Year is coming, I wish you a happy New Year. In this happy festival I want to tell you my good news. My school report is among the best in my class. Even older boys did not get such good marks as me. In mathematics, I came top in the first term of primary 4 and I decided to work even harder. In second term of primary 5, I got 99% in the exam and 100% the following year. I am still top of my class. In languages, I came second in class this term. Mum and the grandparents are very pleased. But my English results are still not very good, so I will work harder in the future and get good results. I wish you a happy festival and good health."
Zl : My son wrote this in the first year my husband was arrested, but we just kept it because we did not even know how to send it to him.
These other documents are police summonses.... And some legal documents.
Ppda : What would your son want to tell your husband , if one day he could see him on the TV?
The boy : I want to say, father, I hope you can get out as soon as possible, because I haven’t seen you for such a long time, I hope we can soon have a family reunion. I wish him good health and better conditions in prison.
Ppda : Do you think your father is very brave?
The boy : I think what he did was right and I don’t know why he was arrested.
Ppda : Thank you very much.