China: Court sentences journalist to 12 years in prison

Huang Qi, an investigative journalist and publisher of the human rights news website 64 Tianwang, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after months of secret court proceedings without lawyers present. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls on the authorities to drop all charges against Huang and release him immediately.

Hong Kong pro-democracy activists attend a protest in support of China's first "cyber-dissident" and founder of human rights website "64 Tianwang", Huang Qi (pictured L on placard), outside the Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong on January 29, 2019. Credit: ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP

On Monday, July 29 the Mianyang Intermediate People’s Court in Sichuan Province sentenced the 56 year-old to prison on charges of “deliberately leaking state secrets,” and “illegally providing state secrets to foreign countries,” according to a statement published on the court’s website. This comes after Huang’s arrest on November 28, 2016 for posting a document allegedly containing ‘state secrets’ on the 64 Tainwang website revealing Huang as a target among Chinese authorities. Since his arrest, Huang had been detained for two years at the Mianyang Detention Centre.

During his detention authorities disbarred two of Huang’s lawyers, Sui Muqing and Liu Zhengqing. Later Huang dismissed another lawyer Li Jinglin out of concerns for the lawyer’s safety. Huang’s mother Pu Wenqing has also been under police guard at her home since February this year and was barred from attending Huang’s trial.

There are also concerns for Huang’s health being at risk if he goes to prison. According to media reports and an open letter sent from Huang’s mother he suffers from a number of medical conditions including kidney, brain, heart and lung ailments, and cysts developed in various parts of his body.

64 Tianwang, which often reports on local corruption, human rights violations, and other topics rarely seen in ordinary Chinese media, is blocked on the mainland.

In the past Huang has repeatedly drawn the attention of Chinese authorities. In 2009 he was sentenced to three years in prison after campaigning for parents of children killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which left nearly 87, 000 people dead or missing. Five years later Huang and at least three citizen journalists who contributed to 64 Tianwang were detained by police after the site reported on a woman who set herself on fire in Tiananmen Square.

The IFJ said: “Huang Qi’s 12 year prison sentence demonstrates the continuing threat press freedom faces in China. Huang also suffers from a multitude of medical conditions which makes this an urgent matter. The court must drop its charges against Huang immediately before his health deteriorates further, and restore confidence in the Chinese media freedom.”

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The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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