Police detained Huang, publisher of the human rights news website 64 Tianwang, outside his apartment complex in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, on November 28, 2016, according to media reports. More than 10 officers searched Huang's home and detained his mother, Pu Wenqing, who was in his apartment at the time. Police took Pu to her home in the nearby city of Neijiang, where she found her residence had also been searched, according to media reports.
On December 16, 2016, police formally arrested Huang for “leaking state secrets to foreign entities.” On July 16, 2017, Mianyang Public Security Bureau submitted its charging request to the Mianyang City Procuratorate, which on August 30, 2017, sent the case back to police to investigate further, according to Radio Free Asia and Huang’s lawyer Sui Muqing. Sui and Li Jinglin, another lawyer for Huang, were denied access to the case file and exhibits, according to Li.
As of late 2017, Huang was being held at the Mianyang Detention Center.
Huang founded 64 Tianwang in 1998 with his then wife Zeng Li, as a missing-persons service. The website started covering issues not reported on by China's mainstream news media, such as protests, allegations of government corruption and abuse of power, police brutality, and the detention of writers and activists. On November 23 and 25, 2016, 64 Tianwang reported on the arrests of demonstrators who were protesting the death of a petitioner allegedly beaten by government supporters. Huang told Radio Free Asia that such reporting "could bring him trouble."
Huang and his staff have been subjected to police harassment since he founded 64 Tianwang. In October 2016, police briefly detained Huang ahead of a gathering of the Chinese Communist Party Congress. Huang was jailed from 2000 to 2005 on charges of "subversion of state power" for articles posted on 64 Tianwang, and from 2008-2011 on charges of "illegally holding state secrets." A volunteer for the site, Pu Fei, was detained for two weeks in 2008 after Huang was arrested. In April 2016, Wang Jing, a reporter at 64 Tianwang, was sentenced to four years and 10 months in prison for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble." She was arrested on December 10, 2014, while photographing protesters near the Beijing headquarters of the state-run broadcasting agency China Central Television, according to news reports. Yang Xiuqiong, a volunteer journalist for the website, was arrested on June 23, 2017, on the charge of “subversion of state power” for reporting on Huang Qi’s case, according to a news report. Yet another journalist for the website, Li Zhaoxiu, was arrested while awaiting liver surgery on September 17, 2017, at a hospital in Chengdu city, according to news reports. The website has been blocked in China since March 2003 and is frequently targeted by hackers, according to Radio Free Asia.
Huang’s lawyer Li visited Huang on November 3, 2017. According to lawyer Li’s interview with Epoch Times, Huang had been beaten by other inmates and abused by prison officials. Li filed a complaint against the Mianyang Detention Center to the Mianyang People’s Procuratorate.
On May 24, 2018, the Mianyang Intermediate People’s Court held a pretrial conference on Huang’s case along with 64 Tianwang’s volunteers Yang Xiuqioand Chen Tianmao. According to Radio Free Asia, the three refused to sign their names to interrogation records that imply confessing to “illegally providing state secrets overseas.” Chen and Yang were released in October 2018, according to 64 Tianwang’s volunteer Pu Fei and Radio Free Asia.
According to meeting notes taken by Huang’s lawyer Liu Zengqing, who took over Huang’s case after Sui’s retaliatory disbarment in February 2018, Huang was interrogated 15 times starting on August 12. Liu did not know when the interrogations ended, nor was the time period indicated in the meeting notes. While being interrogated, Huang was not allowed to rest or use the toilet. A prosecutor named Du Peng hit him with a water bottle on his chest and injured him, according to copies of the notes provided to CPJ by 64 Tianwang’s volunteer Pu Fei.
CPJ’s calls to the Mianyang Public Security Bureau went unanswered in late 2018.