Huang Qi. 

(New York) – Chinese authorities should immediately quash the 12-year sentence on baseless charges handed down to a veteran activist, Huang Qi, Human Rights Watch said today. The Sichuan court website posted the sentence for “deliberately leaking state secrets” and “illegally providing state secrets abroad” on July 29, 2019, without notifying Huang’s family.

“The fabricated case against Huang Qi shows the Chinese government’s boundless hostility to peaceful activism,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “The 12-year sentence is an act of cruelty toward the gravely ill Huang and his mother, whom the authorities have relentlessly harassed.”

Huang, 56, a veteran activist and founder of the human rights website 64 Tianwang, was detained in November 2016, on suspicion of “illegally leaking state secrets abroad.” The prosecution against him was conducted in secret and riddled with procedural problems and allegations of torture and mistreatment.

The authorities have refused Huang’s lawyers’ requests to obtain the case documents and repeatedly warned them not to speak about Huang’s case publicly. In February 2018, authorities disbarred Huang’s lawyer, Sui Muqing, and a year later, Liu Zhengqing, the lawyer who replaced Sui. In January, Huang was tried in secret at a court in the city of Mianyang, in Sichuan province. 

The Sichuan police have continually harassed Huang’s octogenarian mother, Pu Wenqing, in an apparent attempt to prevent her from speaking out. They forcibly disappeared her, placed her under incommunicado house arrest for days, and sent government agents to live in her home.

Huang told his lawyer that fellow detainees at the Mianyang City detention center had beaten him repeatedly. At least one detention center officer was aware of the violence but failed to intervene. Authorities have also denied Huang basic necessities, such as toothpaste and toilet paper.

Huang suffers from several serious health conditions for which he has not been given adequate treatment, including kidney disease, possible emphysema, and inflammation in the lungs, Huang’s mother said in a public letter appealing for Huang’s release. Huang’s lawyer has applied for bail on his behalf three times, but authorities denied each application without giving a reason.

Huang has previously served two prison sentences, totaling eight years. From 2000-2005, he was imprisoned on “subversion” charges for posting human rights-related information on 64 Tianwang, and from 2008-2011 for “illegally holding state secrets” for his investigation into allegations that shoddy construction contributed to the collapse of schools during Sichuan’s May 2018 earthquake.

In recent years, Chinese authorities have allowed several activists, including the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, to grow ill and die in detention, or released them shortly before their deaths. Other cases include Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, Cao Shunli, Yang Tongyan, Muhammad Salih Hajim, and, this July, Ji Sizun.

“China is threatening to add yet another name to the list of rights advocates who did not survive their ordeal in a Chinese prison,” Richardson said. “The government should avoid an international outcry by reversing Huang’s conviction and immediately freeing him.”