New York, June 26, 2001 — The Chengdu Intermediate Court in Sichuan Province announced today that the trial of Internet publisher Huang Qi had been postponed indefinitely.
Huang was scheduled to face trial tomorrow on charges of subversion. No reason was given for the postponement, according to a U.S.-based source who had spoken with Huang’s lawyer. This is the second time in six months that his trial has been postponed.
Huang Qi was publisher of the Tianwang website (www.6-4tianwang.com), which featured articles about pro-democracy activism in China, the independence movement in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, and the banned spiritual group Falun Gong. He was arrested on June 3, 2000, and later charged with subversion.
“Huang Qi has been jailed for more than a year because his Web site carried articles that the Chinese government didn’t like,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “CPJ deplores the use of trumped-up subversion charges to punish people for airing unorthodox views.”
On February 13, 2001, Huang was brought to court for a closed trial. However, the trial was cancelled after three and a half hours, with court officials claiming that Huang became too ill to proceed. The hearing was rescheduled for February 23. On that day, court officials told Huang’s wife that it would again be postponed due to the journalist’s alleged ill health.
An official at the Number 1 Detention Center in Chengdu later told The Associated Press that Huang appeared to be suffering from nothing more serious than a cold.
The rescheduling of Huang Qi’s trial appears to be a way of deflecting international attention from China’s human rights practices as the Jiang Zemin government campaigns to host the 2008 Olympic Games. Both trial delays have coincided with important dates in Beijing’s Olympics bid. The February trial would have taken place during an inspection tour of China by the International Olympics Committee. The recent postponement comes just before the July 7 deadline for the International Olympic Committee’s final decision on the site for the 2008 Games.
The Tianwang site has been hosted by a U.S. server since April 2000 and remains accessible.
Huang is one of 14 people in China who have been arrested for publishing or distributing information on the Internet since 1998, according to CPJ research. The postponement of his trial comes amid renewed government efforts to tighten control over the Internet. In recent weeks, a number of popular online chat rooms have been closed for posting comments critical of the government. In mid-June, the Internet essayist Liu Weifang was sentenced to three years on charges of subversion for posting politically controversial material to Internet chat rooms.