On Monday, November 23, 2009, a court in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, sentenced Huang Qi (黄琦), an activist who tried to help families of the victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, to three years in prison for “illegal possession of state secrets.” Huang has been in detention since June 2008. According to his wife, Zeng Li (曾丽), his health has seriously deteriorated and he has been diagnosed with an abdominal aneurysm. Zeng said that Huang will appeal his sentence, and his lawyer is applying for medical parole.
Zeng told Human Rights in China (HRIC) that despite a notice in front of the courtroom saying that it was a public hearing, she and Huang’s mother, Pu Wenqing (蒲文清), were allowed to go in only after repeated pleading with court officials. In addition, the court refused to give them – Huang’s immediate family – a copy of the court decision, as required by law.
Pu told HRIC that when she pleaded with the judge, Shui Changbing (税长冰), reminding her that all that Huang did, including his 13 visits to the earthquake zone, was done for the public good, “the judge pounded the table and scolded me, saying, ‘You obviously didn’t raise your son right – he’s been in jail several times – and you call yourself a doctor! … You’re not even qualified to talk to me.’” Pu said that the judge then ordered the court marshals to drag her and Zeng out.
In 2008, immediately after the Sichuan earthquake in May, Huang visited the earthquake zone and published news about the plight of parents who lost children in the disaster on his website, Tianwang Human Rights Center. Huang was tried in a closed hearing on August 5, 2009, in the Chengdu Wuhou District Court, after more than a year in detention. No family members were allowed in the courtroom. Two days before the trial, on August 3, Pu Fei (浦飞), a volunteer at the Tianwang Human Rights Center who was prepared to testify for Huang at the trial, was kidnapped in Chengdu by four police officers and detained for two days. The police told him, “Our public security offices are doing this to prevent you from continuing to commit crimes.” Pu was released after Huang’s trial.
Huang’s sentence has come in the wake of a series of actions and harsh sentences against rights activists in recent weeks, including the detention of Sichuan land rights activist Liu Zhengyou (刘正有) on fraud charges; the detention of Zhao Lianhai (赵连海), a parent of a victim of melamine-tainted milk powder and a core organizer of affected families nationwide, for “provoking an incident”; the two-year sentence for Lin Dagang (林大刚), a 70-year-old housing rights activist, for “illegal possession of state secrets”; and the ten-year prison term and three-year deprivation of political rights for Guo Quan (郭泉), former Nanjing Normal University associate professor and former member of China Democratic League (one of the eight state-approved “democratic” parties), for “subversion of state power.”
“Once again, the authorities are shamelessly trying to cover up problems and evade accountability to the people. Instead of punishing Huang Qi, a citizen who conscientiously tried to help families who lost children in the Sichuan earthquake, the authorities should be conducting a full public investigation of the shoddy construction of schools and the handling of public warnings of the impending quake,” said Sharon Hom, HRIC executive director. “HRIC urges the Chinese authorities to grant Huang Qi medical parole and release him immediately.”
Huang Qi has been a long-time activist. He established the Chengdu Tianwang Missing Persons Inquiry Service Center in October 1998 and the Tianwang Missing Persons website on June 4, 1999. This website was widely recognized by the media for its work on helping to find many missing people and unite family members. On June 3, 2000, Huang Qi was arrested by the Chengdu police for “voicing grievances about June Fourth, crying out for the democracy movement,” and other charges.
After being detained for three years, Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Huang Qi to five years’ imprisonment on May 9, 2003, for the crime of inciting subversion of state power. During his detention, Huang Qi contracted hydrocephalus, encephalatrophy, rheumatic heart disease, and other illnesses due to long periods of brutal beatings and torture.
After he was released from prison in 2005, Huang Qi launched a website called June Fourth Tianwang to continue domestic rights activities, publish rights protection information, and provide assistance to vulnerable groups. On December 31, 2006, the website June Fourth Tianwang was renamed the Tianwang Human Rights Center.
The following is additional background on Huang Qi’s case and activism.
Huang Qi Case Summary
Huang Qi Case Background
Huang Qi Background History
For more information on Huang Qi, see:
• Human Rights in China, “Authorities Kidnapped and Prevented Court Appearance by Witness for Huang Qi’s Case,” August 5, 2009.
• Human Rights in China, “Authorities Denied Bail and Medicines for Detained Activist Huang Qi,” July 28, 2008.
• Human Rights in China, “Detained Rights Activist Huang Qi Formally Arrested,” July 18, 2008.
• Human Rights in China, “Huang Qi Denied Access to Counsel,” June 24, 2008.
• Human Rights in China, “Rights Activist Huang Qi Detained on Suspicion of Holding State Secrets,” June 16, 2008.
• Human Rights in China, “Human Rights in China Condemns the Detention of Huang Qi by Police in Chengdu,” June 14, 2008.