Summary and Current Status
On June 10, 2011, Huang Qi, a Chinese computer engineer and human rights advocate, was released from prison, in Dazhu City, after serving his three-year sentence in its entirety. In interviews he gave to the press, he said that his health has declined significantly because he was denied medical treatment throughout his imprisonment for illnesses he acquired during a previous imprisonment, from 2000 to 2005. Huang Qi suffers from inflammation of the heart muscles, brain atrophy, and water on the brain. On June 10, he reportedly was escorted by eight police in two vans to his mother’s house in his hometown, Neijiang, and was warned not to communicate with other dissidents. Given that a number of other dissidents released in the last year have been placed under house arrest along with their families, his wife fears that restrictions will be placed on them as well.
Huang Qi was arrested on June 10, 2008, for trying to help parents—whose children were killed when their school collapsed during the May 12, 2008 earthquake—to request an official investigation. He ran a small organization called the Tianwang Human Rights Center and had just posted an article on the Center’s website on behalf of the parents detailing their demands. They were seeking compensation for their children’s death, an investigation into the construction of the school, and accountability for those found to be responsible. In a closed, one-day trial that failed to meet international standards of jurisprudence, Mr. Huang was convicted of “unlawfully holding documents classified as highly secret.” Amnesty International considered Huang Qi to be a prisoner of conscience.
Huang Qi is a computer engineer from Chengdu, Sichuan province. Since the late 1990s he has actively advocated for human rights. In late 1998 he and his wife, Zeng Li, sold their family’s assets and set up China’s first organization to search for missing persons. For the next year they worked with a number of other groups, including the Sichuan police, to reunite approximately 200 families, including child victims of human traffickers. In June 1999 they started an online search service and, in late 1999, a human rights website. After publishing information about injustices, including against laborers and prodemocracy advocates, Mr. Huang was warned to stop. He refused. On June 3, 2000, he was detained. On August 21, 2000, Mr. Huang was charged with “instigation to subvert state power.” The indictment accused him of using his website to post material about the Falun Gong movement and demanding a reversal of the official government’s position on the June 4, 1989, crackdown. According to Human Rights Watch, in January 2001 he was accused of violating articles 103 and 105 of Chinese Criminal Law. These articles mete out punishments for “organizing national separatism,” destroying national unity,” “organizing, plotting or carrying out activities aimed at subverting state political power,” and “overthrowing the socialist system.”
On August 14, 2001, Mr. Huang was tried in camera in a hearing that lasted only two hours. His family was not permitted to attend. His sentence was not made known until 2003, when he was officially sentenced to five years in prison. After serving his full sentence, Mr. Huang was released in 2005 and resumed his human rights activities as head of the organization he had founded, Tianwang Human Rights Center.
During the days following the May 12, 2008, earthquake in China, authorities in Sichuan province tried to curb media coverage of allegations of poor construction of schools, and citizen protests, and offered money to parents who blamed corrupt officials for the deaths of their children. Mr. Huang posted the complaints and appeals of the parents on his website. He also documented what he observed at the scenes of the collapsed schools and delivered food and rescue equipment. On June 10, 2008, he was detained by plainclothes police officers as he walked out of a restaurant in Chengdu with two friends. He had just posted an article on his Center’s website, on behalf of five parents whose children had been killed inside their school parents, detailing their demands. They were seeking compensation for their children’s death, an investigation into the construction of the school, and accountability for those found to be responsible. Mr. Huang was held in incommunicado detention for more than three months, with no access to his family or legal counsel. On September 23, 2008, he was permitted a first meeting with his lawyer.
According to Amnesty International, Mr. Huang told his lawyer during a visit on May 26, 2009, that he had been subjected to long hours of questioning—including once being interrogated continuously for three days without a rest—and was sometimes deprived of sleep. He also reported that he had been diagnosed by a doctor at the detention center as having two tumors, one in his stomach and the other on his chest.
On February 2, 2009, more than seven months after Mr. Huang’s arrest, his wife, Zeng Li, was informed by the court that he had been charged with “unlawfully holding documents classified as highly secret,” that his trial would be closed and would take place the following day, and that she should inform her husband’s lawyers, Mo Shaoping and Ding Xikui, of these developments. The lawyers protested before the court immediately on the grounds that the court had failed to give the defense three days’ notice before trial as is required by Chinese law. The judge ruled that the trial would be postponed, but no new date was given at that time. On February 3 Mr. Huang’s lawyers reportedly were forbidden by the court to photocopy the case documents assembled by police during the investigation so that they could prepare their client’s defense on the grounds that they contained state secrets. On August 5, 2009, Mr. Huang was brought to trial in proceedings that lasted less than one day. Because the Chinese government claimed that his case involved “state secrets,” the trial was closed, and the court did not allow him to call any witnesses to testify on his behalf. He was convicted of “unlawfully holding state secrets,” but the proceedings adjourned without a verdict. On November 23, 2009, he was sentenced by the Wuhou District People’s Court in Chengdu to three years in prison. Only his wife and mother were allowed to attend the hearing. Several dozen policemen reportedly surrounded the court to prevent his supporters from attending; some were beaten by police. On February 8, 2010, Huang Qi’s appeal of his conviction was denied.