Veteran online activist and citizen journalist Huang Qi went on trial in Mianyang, Sichuan, on Monday on charges of “leaking state secrets.” The trial was announced at the last minute and no verdict has been released. Huang, who has served two terms in prison since 2000, was most recently detained in November 2016. From AFP:
Huang Qi was arrested in 2016 for “leaking state secrets” and has since been held at the Mianyang Detention Centre in southwestern Sichuan province – his home region – without a trial date.
Calls to the Mianyang Mianyang Intermediate People’s Court, which is handling the case, went unanswered.
“American diplomats attempted to attend Huang Qi’s trial but were denied access to the courtroom,” a US embassy spokesperson told AFP.
Several activists who said they were travelling to Mianyang to attend the trial sent photos and videos to AFP showing police stopping them en route Monday morning. [Source]
Radio Free Asia has more on the trial and the restrictions placed on Huang’s family and associates ahead of the court proceedings:
One of Huang’s former defense attorneys, Liu Zhengqing, said he wasn’t informed of the trial beforehand, with the authorities saying that its content involved matters of “national security.”
Liu was warned off further involvement in Huang’s case, lost his license to practice as a lawyer, and forced to sign a declaration to that effect, he said.
“It’s not convenient for me to talk right now; I’m not able to give interviews,” he said. “I wasn’t able to appear in court, and I wasn’t informed of the trial by the court.”
[…] His mother Pu Wenqing, who has repeatedly called for Huang’s release on urgent medical grounds, and who says the charges are politically motivated, with no evidence to back them up, has been incommunicado since her detention on Dec. 7 at a railway station in Beijing, where she had gone to campaign for his release.
Li Jinglin, another member of Huang’s defense team, implied that the trial had only lasted a few hours. [Source]
Huang Qi is being tried today. Roads leading to the court are blocked. Activists who went to court to show support have been disappeared. Huang's mother is under house arrest. His colleague @Pufei is in police custody. "Trial with Chinese characteristics"? https://t.co/WdApde0ktj
— Yaqiu Wang 王亚秋 (@Yaqiu) January 14, 2019
Read more about Huang’s 85-year-old mother, Pu Wenqing, her campaign for his release, and her own detention, in a December article for the Guardian by Lily Kuo.
In November 2018, 14 human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Chinese Human Rights Defenders, issued a public letter calling for Huang’s immediate release on humanitarian grounds, saying that “Huang’s condition is so serious that there is an immediate threat to his life.” Huang suffers from kidney disease, heart disease, and other ailments.
In a manner similar to events during Liu Xiaobo's final days, a video has appeared online showing Huang Qi apparently speaking to medical experts who pronounce him in good health. https://t.co/yZyA3hJNrO
— Christian 马思潭 (@cdcshepherd) January 14, 2019
In 2000, Huang became one of the first people in China to be arrested for his online activism, when he was sentenced to five years in prison on subversion charges for posting information on his 64-Tianwang website about the June 4, 1989 military crackdown on protesters and other human rights issues. Previously, his website had garnered significant attention from authorities for its work locating abducted children. His website states that its mission is to “stand in solidarity with those who have no power, no money, and no influence.”
In 2009, Huang was sentenced to another three years in prison for his work exposing shoddy construction which contributed to the death toll in the Wenchuan earthquake in his native Sichuan province. Upon his release, he continued working to provide information via his website to petitioners and activists, and was detained again in June 2016.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Huang Qi is one of 47 journalists imprisoned in the country in 2018, making the country the second biggest jailer of journalists after Turkey.