Jailed founder of China’s underground human rights site in poor health as state secrets trial looms
Activist’s mother says son’s condition has worsened dramatically, pleads for release on medical grounds
The health of China’s pioneering “cyber-dissident” Huang Qi has deteriorated dramatically over the last year, his mother said on Thursday, just weeks before he is due to go on trial on charges of leaking state secrets.
Huang Qi, 55, founded the website “64 Tianwang”, named in part for the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown on June 4, 1989.
The website reports on human rights issues in China and is blocked on the mainland.
It was awarded the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) TV5 Monde Press Freedom Prize in 2016, and Huang is also a recipient of RSF’s Cyber-Dissident Prize.
Huang has been in detention since November 2016 when he was arrested in Chengdu for leaking state secrets.
Huang’s mother, Pu Wenqing, said her son had severe kidney failure and had lost more than 10kg since his arrest, suggesting that he had not received adequate medical care.
“His face, his hands and his legs are all severely swollen,” Pu told the South China Morning Post. “I’m afraid if things don’t change he will die in custody.”
Pu, 85, said she saw Huang on Thursday morning during a pre-trial meeting, when prosecutors, judges and Huang’s lawyers met to discuss preparations for his trial.
“He looked pale and skinny. Even his expressions had changed,” she said.
Pu said the family and Huang’s lawyers had requested Huang be granted bail on health grounds, but had received no response.
The activist’s lawyer, Liu Changqing, said the trial would be held in Mianyang, Sichuan province, on June 20.
Pu disputed suggestions that Huang had leaked state secrets, saying he had simply released some material related to a petition.
“There was no official chop on those documents or anything that said they were classified,” she said.
Huang became the first Chinese cyber-dissident to be jailed in 2000 when he was imprisoned for five years for subversion.
He was jailed for a further three years in 2009 for reporting on the collapse of poorly built schools in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
The quake claimed the lives of more than 5,000 students and pupils, according to official figures.
In many cases, buildings around the schools remained standing, raising questions about corruption in the construction of the facilities.