New York, November 24, 2009—After almost 18 months in detention, prominent Internet publisher and human rights activist Huang Qi was sentenced to three years imprisonment on Monday by a court in Wuhou in China’s Sichuan province. The sentencing hearing lasted 10 minutes, according to international news reports. Police in Chengdu detained Huang on June 10, 2008, on charges of illegally holding state secrets and convicted him in August. Huang had been a prominent critic of the government’s response to the Sichuan earthquake disaster in May 2008.
“Huang’s verdict is a painful continuation of the crackdown on the media that eventually followed the terrible disaster in Sichuan that took so many lives,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “China has still not learned to live with the values of open media and public service, which are embodied in Huang Qi’s journalism.”
According to media reports, the court found Huang guilty of “illegal possession of state secrets” because he had disclosed what the court considered confidential information from two municipal governments. Because of the “state secrets” charges, no details of the case were made public by the government. His trial was conducted in August, but was not open to the public.
Huang had posted information about the local and central governments’ regulations for how their complaints departments should operate, information that was publicly available on local government Web sites at the time the article was written but was eventually removed from the site after the earthquake. Huang’s Web site, 6-4tianwang, ran stories about angry parents who lost their children in the earthquake and reported on parents protesting shoddy school construction and a slow government response after the disaster. Huang previously served five years in prison, from 2000 to 2005, for inciting subversion through articles that had been posted on the site.
Huang’s wife, Zeng Li, who was in court to hear the sentence, told The New York Times, “They still won’t say what the specific charge is, not even at the verdict. They just spoke of documents related to a certain matter.”