[Marxism] Chinese Internet Pioneer Who Exposed Misdeeds Gets Heavy Prison Term

Louis Proyect 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 
and actions.

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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