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Ailing former rights website editor denied visit from attorney in Sichuan jail

Huang Qi has been denied meetings with his lawyers as he continues to complain about his treatment, friends say.

By Gu Ting for RFA Mandarin

February 9, 2023

Detained rights activist Huang Qi (L) and his mother Pu Wenqing (R) are shown in undated photos, provided in early 2020.

Ailing rights activist Huang Qi, who is serving a 12-year jail term in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan for "leaking state secrets," has once more been denied a visit from his lawyer, Radio Free Asia has learned.

Huang's lawyer turned up at Sichuan's Bazhong Prison on Wednesday in a bid to visit his client, but was turned away by the authorities, Huang's mother Pu Wenqing told friends via the WeChat messaging app on Wednesday evening.

Huang, now in his late fifties, has been identified by Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) as one of 10 citizen journalists in danger of dying in detention.

He has repeatedly denied the charges against him and has refused to "confess," making him vulnerable to mistreatment and deprivation of rights and privileges in prison.

Later, Bazhong municipal police officers followed up with a visit to the lawyer at his hotel, Pu wrote in comments seen by a person in Chengdu who declined to reveal their identity for fear of reprisals.

"The reason was that the last time a lawyer had visited [Huang], they took photos inside the prison and posted them online," the person told Radio Free Asia on Thursday.

"The lawyer checked into a hotel in Bazhong city on the night of Feb. 7, and four police officers from the local police station turned up there and harassed them," the person said.

An employee who answered the phone at the Bazhong Prison on Thursday hung up the phone as soon as they heard the name Huang Qi.

Further calls to the same number rang unanswered during office hours.

Calls to Pu's number also rang unanswered on Thursday.

Another friend of Huang's who asked to remain anonymous said Pu is currently under close surveillance, surrounded by officials and unable to leave her home.

"Huang Qi's lawyer has never met with her, and ... petitioners [fellow rights activists] have also been unable to visit her," the friend said.

Pu, who is in her late eighties, said she was told by her doctor in June 2022 that her lung cancer was spreading to her liver, and called on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to allow her to visit her son in prison before she dies.

She said at the time she was living under surveillance by the state security police, who insisted on escorting her to every medical appointment.

The last time she was able to speak with Huang via video call was Nov. 24, 2022, according to the overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders network's Twitter account. A Jan. 28, 2022 meeting was abruptly cut off two minutes in, after she tried to discuss Huang's defense lawyers with him.

‘Leaking state secrets’

A court in the southwestern province of Sichuan handed down a 12-year jail term to Huang, a veteran rights activist and founder of the Tianwang rights website, on July 29, 2019.

Huang was sentenced by the Mianyang Intermediate People's Court, after it found him guilty of "leaking state secrets overseas."

Huang's lawyers and Pu have said all along that the case against Huang was a miscarriage of justice, even allowing for the traditionally harsh treatment of dissidents in China.

Chen Tianmao, a former police officer accused alongside Huang, has said the authorities in Sichuan's Mianyang city "faked" documents to use against Huang, as well as torturing Chen, Huang and a third defendant Yang Xiuqiong in a bid to force a "confession" out of them.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders tweeted on Nov. 24 that Huang had also submitted a number of official complaints over his case to the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate via the prison.

Huang's Tianwang website had a strong track record of highlighting petitions and complaints against official wrongdoing, and injustices meted out to the most vulnerable in society, including forced evictees, parents of children who died in the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and other peaceful critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.


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