February 13, 2001---Internet publisher Huang Qi, whose Web site carried articles about human rights and political corruption, went on trial for subversion today in a closed courtroom in Chengdu, in the western province of Sichuan. Court officials told reporters that the trial had been adjourned due to Huang's poor health. A CPJ source said that Huang Qi fainted during the proceedings, and had been abused while in custody. Hearings are expected to resume next week.
Though court officials had earlier suggested the trial would be open to the public, authorities today said they decided to bar all outside observers because the proceedings involved "state secrets."
On the eve of the trial, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released a statement condemning Huang's prosecution on subversion charges. "The criminal prosecution of Huang Qi for posting politically controversial articles online is a terrible reminder of the lengths to which the Chinese government will go to control information," said Ann Cooper, CPJ's executive director. "We urge the court to dismiss these absurd charges and order his immediate release."
Huang Qi, publisher of the Tianwang Web site (www.6-4tianwang.com), was imprisoned along with his wife, Zeng Li, on June 3, 2000---one day before the 11th anniversary of the infamous crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. Zeng was released on June 6. Later that day, she received a notice from the Public Security Bureau (PSB) informing her that Huang was being investigated for subversion.
According to the Hong Kong bureau of Human Rights Watch, Huang was charged under articles 103 and 105 of the Criminal Code. The indictment cited allegedly "subversive" material on the Tianwang site, including articles about the pro-democracy movement, the independence movement in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, and the banned spiritual group Falun Gong. If convicted of the criminal charges framed by the indictment, Huang faces up to 10 years in prison.
Existing laws covering state security and secrecy allow Chinese authorities to jail people for a wide range of press-related offences. Additional regulations, particularly those announced in October and November 2000, specifically govern Internet usage.
On September 25, while in detention, Huang was beaten severely by police, according to his lawyer. Huang reportedly lost a tooth and has a scar on his forehead from the abuse.
China has signed (though not ratified) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right of all people to "seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers."
"The Chinese government continues to deny its citizens their fundamental rights, including the right to free expression," Cooper said. "The Huang Qi case makes it very clear that the advent of the Internet has not changed this grim political reality."
The Tianwang site has been hosted by a U.S.-based server since April 2000 and remains accessible.