Thu, Aug 01, 2019 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Reminder of Chinese injustice

Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) died of cancer on July 13, 2017, under guard at a Shenyang hospital as he was still serving a prison sentence. “Cyberdissident” and human rights campaigner Huang Qi (黃琦) is likely destined to share Liu’s fate.

Huang set up a Web site called “64 Tianwang” (六四天網), which was awarded the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Freedom Prize in 2016, a prize that Liu won in 2004.

The “64” refers to the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square Massacre. The Web site has reported on local corruption cases, police brutality and human rights violations by certain officials, and has repeatedly angered Chinese authorities.

On Monday, Huang was sentenced by the Mianyang Intermediate People’s Court in Sichuan Province to 12 years in prison after having already been in detention for two years.

His stated crimes were “deliberately leaking state secrets” and “illegally providing state secrets to foreign countries,” although he was actually reporting on sensitive issues that Chinese authorities would prefer the world did not know about.

The “state secrets” he supposedly leaked were documents posted on his Web site in 2016 that the authorities classified as top secret after his arrest.

The sentencing follows months of secret proceedings without lawyers present. Since Huang’s arrest, two of his lawyers, Sui Muqing (隋牧青) and Liu Zhengqing (劉正清), have been disbarred. Huang also dismissed another lawyer, Li Jinglin (李靜林), out of concern for his safety.

According to human rights organizations, Huang has chronic kidney disease, hydrocephalus — an accumulation of fluid in the brain — heart disease, tumors in his chest and stomach, and dangerously high blood pressure. His lawyers have said that he has been denied treatment for these conditions while in custody.

Responding to news of Huang’s sentencing, the European Commission said that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in April last year had found that Huang’s detention was arbitrary and contravened the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“The defendant’s rights under China’s Criminal Procedure Law and international law obligations to a fair trial, without undue delay, and to proper defense and access to a lawyer of his own choice, have not been respected,” it said, concluding by saying that the EU expects Huang’s immediate release.

RSF called on Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) to show mercy and use his powers to pardon Huang, but there is no reason to expect that Xi will heed this request.

Beyond the inhumanity of denying treatment or medical bail for severe health conditions, and apart from the breaches of press freedom in handing out such a lengthy sentence, 12 years in jail is almost certainly a death sentence for Huang.

If he does die in jail, he would join a string of dissidents who have met the same fate.

It is one thing to say that a person has no need to fear the criminal justice system in China — or an extradition bill — as long as they do not break the law.

However, Huang’s case demonstrates that committing a crime in China might simply mean getting on Beijing’s wrong side for acts that are protected by international law. Once in the system, access to lawyers, a fair trial, humane treatment, justice, healthcare and proportionality of sentencing cannot be assumed.

Huang’s case is just one more example of why the extradition bill in Hong Kong has proven so contentious and why Beijing’s gradual erosion of the “one country, two systems” model in the territory is being met with such concern by Hong Kongers and Taiwanese.

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