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China 5 December 2003

Webmaster Huang Qi put in solitary confinement after visit from Reporters Without Borders

(JPEG) Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) has expressed its concern after jailed webmaster Huang Qi was transferred to a harsh prison regime, including a spell in solitary confinement, after its representatives tried to visit him at his top security prison. The international press freedom organisation also called for an early release for the prisoner of opinion, who has already spent more than three years in prison in tough conditions.

Reporters Without Borders hailed the recent release of Internet user Liu Di as a positive development, but added it should not be allowed to cloud the fact that dozens of Internet users and cyberdissidents languish in jails in China.

Reporters Without Borders has only just learned that Huang, serving five years for "attempting to overthrow the power of the State", was placed in solitary confinement after its two-person delegation visited the prison in Nanchong, Sichuan Province on 26 October. The prison governor had refused them access. Huang, creator of the site, was initially placed in solitary confinement in a dark, two-metre-square unfurnished cell in which he had to sleep on the floor. Several days later the prison authorities moved him into a "closely monitored", shared cell with other prisoners, in a larger space but still with only the floor to sleep on.

The French television channel TF1 broadcast an item on its main evening news on 20 November that focused on curbs on freedom of expression in China and included an appeal from Huang’s wife for her husband to be released.

Huang was arrested on 3 June 2000 and charged under Articles 103 and 105 of the criminal code. The authorities accused him of publishing online articles on his site on the June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, written by dissidents living abroad. Huang originally set up the site to publish missing persons’ appeals throughout China. In August 2003, The Sichuan High Court confirmed on appeal his five-year sentence that was passed by a lower court. In September 2003, he was transferred to the top security prison of Nanchong, 200 kilometres east of the provincial capital Chengdu.

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