02 August 2023: Last weekend marked four years since citizen journalist, publisher and activist Huang Qi (黄琦) was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. Huang suffers from several critical health conditions and the authorities have repeatedly denied requests from his family and legal representatives to meet with him in-person since he was imprisoned. We are deeply concerned for his health and well-being and call for his immediate and unconditional release.
On 29 July 2019, Huang Qi was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment and a further four years deprivation of his political rights after he was convicted of ‘leaking state secrets’ and ‘illegally providing state secrets to foreign countries’. While the trial was held behind closed doors, the conviction is thought to be connected to his work publishing reporting on human rights violations in China through his human rights website called 64 Tianwang, named after the Tiananmen Square massacre that took place on 4 June 1989.
‘At a time when independent media is heavily repressed in China, citizen journalists have played a crucial role in providing a source of uncensored news and information, often at great personal risk. Huang Qi’s unjust imprisonment on national security grounds is an alarming example of the PRC government’s intolerance towards the right to freedom of expression when it is exercised by those who speak truth to power. We call for Huang’s immediate and unconditional release’, said Ma Thida, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.
On 28 November 2016, Huang was detained at his home by police just weeks after his website, 64 Tianwang, received a press freedom prize from RSF. He was then allegedly held incommunicado until his formal arrest on charges of ‘illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities’ on 16 December 2016.
While held in pre-trial detention, Huang was repeatedly denied adequate medical care, and he reported to his lawyer that the authorities deliberately provided incorrect results for his blood pressure as part of efforts to cover up the severity of his deteriorating health. Denial of adequate medical care has been a frequently used tactic against dissidents in China, including Nobel laureate and former president of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, Liu Xiaobo.
Despite a campaign by Huang’s mother Pu Wenqing, human rights NGOs, and calls for his immediate release from United Nations experts, he remains detained while suffering from heart disease, a potentially fatal kidney condition and hydrocephalus (excess fluid in the brain).
On 24 November 2022, Pu Wengqing, who suffers from lung cancer and frequent harassment from the authorities, was permitted to see her son for the first time since he was detained through a video call lasting just two minutes before it was cut off. Since then, Pu and Huang’s lawyers have been repeatedly denied the ability to visit him and assess his wellbeing.