[Marxism] Chinese Internet Pioneer Who Exposed Misdeeds Gets Heavy Prison Term
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jul 30 08:19:15 MDT 2019
NY Times, July 30, 2019
Chinese Internet Pioneer Who Exposed Misdeeds Gets Heavy Prison Term
By Ian Johnson
A Chinese internet pioneer who once won Communist Party praise for using
the Web to combat social ills was sentenced Monday to 12 years in prison
— a further sign that the window for independent social activism in
China has all but closed.
Huang Qi, 56, who spent nearly 20 years exposing local government
malfeasance and brutality, and has already served eight years in prison,
was found guilty by a court in southwestern China of “deliberately
disclosing state secrets” and “illegally providing state secrets to
foreign entities,” according to the court statement.
In addition to the prison term, he was deprived of political rights for
four years and fined 20,000 yuan, or nearly $3,000.
It was one of the longest sentences given to a rights advocate in recent
years and followed calls for clemency by human rights groups, foreign
governments and the United Nations. In light of Mr. Huang’s chronic bad
health, including high blood pressure as well as kidney and heart
problems, the nongovernmental organization Reporters Without Borders
called the 12-year term “equivalent to a death sentence.”
Mr. Huang was most recently arrested in 2016 for “inciting subversion of
state power,” which often carries a prison term of up to 10 years. The
more serious charge of divulging state secrets, and its longer sentence,
may have stemmed from his unwillingness to cooperate or confess,
according to Patrick Poon of Amnesty International.
During a secret trial in January, Mr. Huang reportedly denied all
wrongdoing and criticized the government, according to one associate who
asked to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions.
“The authorities are using his case to scare other human rights
defenders who also do similar work,” said Mr. Poon. “Due to his popular
website and broad network of volunteers and grass-roots activists, his
case is highly sensitive.”
Mr. Huang is one of several activists recently targeted for running
human rights websites. One, Zhen Jianghua, who ran the Human Rights
Campaign in China, was sentenced to two years last December, while
another, Liu Feiyue, received five years in January for running the
Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch.
Mr. Huang’s 64Tianwang website was a ticker of social unrest.
He and his team of volunteers fielded dozens of phone calls a day, often
from people appealing government decisions to expropriate their land.
Many were engaged in street protests or presenting petitions to
government agencies, and Mr. Huang’s team reported on their complaints
When he started his site in 1999, Mr. Huang and his former wife, Zeng
Li, helped missing children and their parents unite.
In a 1999 profile, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, People’s
Daily, focused on a man who had disappeared after he followed the banned
spiritual practice Falun Gong. Through the site’s efforts, the man’s
family found out he had committed suicide.
While that story was in line with government priorities, the newspaper’s
report also discussed other more sensitive cases that the site handled,
including the kidnapping of rural children, which was rampant in the
1990s because of the government’s single-child policy.
The website’s name reflected its agenda. “Tianwang” means “heavenly
web,” referring to the idea of heaven as a synonym for “justice.” The
numbers 6 and 4 referred to the date of the site’s founding: June 4,
1999. But that date was also — not coincidentally, Mr. Huang said in
later interviews — the tenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square
massacre, when pro-democracy protesters were killed in Beijing.
Soon after the flattering profile in People’s Daily, the site’s social
edge sharpened. Eventually Mr. Huang paid a heavy price.
In 2000, the site reported on migrant laborers forced to undergo
unnecessary appendectomies, and pay exorbitant bills at state-run
hospitals. This also won government praise.
But later that year, the site began reporting on the violent suppression
of Falun Gong, which included the beating deaths of followers in police
custody. Shortly after that report, Mr. Huang was arrested and served
five years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.”
He said he spent a year in solitary confinement, often sleeping on a
concrete floor, which damaged his kidneys and led to regular dialysis.
Released in 2005, Mr. Huang reopened the site and won numerous human
rights awards for his reporting of malfeasance, especially about the
shoddy construction of schools that collapsed in the 2008 Wenchuan
Those reports led to another prison stay, this time of three years.
He relaunched the site after his release, remaining optimistic that it
was having an effect. In a 2013 interview, he said that the site was
read by the country’s security apparatus, and that it helped publicize
citizen grievances, applying pressure.
Mr. Huang also expressed optimism that the new government of Xi Jinping
would be more tolerant of his work because of its avowed goals of
promoting a transparent legal system and cracking down on corruption.
Mr. Huang said, however, that the struggle could be prolonged and
costly. Comparing his efforts to those of American revolutionaries, he
said the British agreed to negotiate only after Washington inflicted
defeats on them.
“It’s like that with us now,” Mr. Huang said. “It’s only after pressure
from the people that the government will change its opinions.”
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