Tengzhou police arrested Qi and charged him with fraud and extortion. He was sentenced initially to four years in prison on May 13, 2008, but new charges and a longer sentence was added the year he was due to be released. The arrest occurred about a week after police detained Qi's colleague, Ma Shiping, a freelance photographer, on charges of carrying a false press card.
Qi, a journalist for 13 years, and Ma had criticized a local official in Shandong province in an article published June 8, 2007, on the website of the U.S.-based Epoch Times, according to Qi's lawyer, Li Xiongbing. On June 14, 2007, the two posted photographs on the Xinhua news agency's anti-corruption Web forum that showed a luxurious government building in the city of Tengzhou. Ma was sentenced in 2007 to one and a half years in prison. He was released in 2009, according to Qi's wife, Jiao Xia.
Qi was accused of taking money from local officials while reporting several stories, a charge he denied. The people from whom he was accused of extorting money were local officials threatened by his reporting, Li said. Qi told his lawyer and Jiao that police beat him during questioning on August 13, 2007, and again during a break in his trial.
Qi was due to be released in 2011, but in May of that year local authorities told him the court had received new evidence against him. On June 9, 2011, less than three weeks before the end of his term, a Shandong provincial court sentenced him to an additional eight years in prison, according to the New York-based advocacy group Human Rights in China and Radio Free Asia.
Human Rights in China, citing an online article by defense lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, said the court tried Qi on a new count of stealing advertising revenue from China Security Produce News, a former employer. The journalist's supporters speculated that the charge was in reprisal for Qi's statements to his jailers that he would continue reporting after his release, according to The New York Times.
Qi has been transferred from Tengzhou Prison to Zhaozhuang Prison in Shandong province, according to Qi’s other lawyer Li Xiongbing. Jiao told journalists in 2012 that her husband offered her a divorce, but she declined. Jiao also said that Qi had told her that he had been tortured in prison, that some of his teeth were knocked out when prison officials beat him, and that he was being forced to mine coal. Qi also suffered from arthritis, according to a transcript of Jiao's full account. In 2017, Jiao told CPJ that she had no further information on Qi.
Qi’s lawyers Liu and Li told CPJ that they had no new information on Qi’s status as of September 2017.