Tue, Nov 06, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Groups fear for Chinese dissident

AFP, BEIJING

China’s first “cyberdissident,” webmaster and human rights campaigner Huang Qi (黃琦), is in danger of dying in police custody if he does not receive medical treatment for a host of severe health conditions, human rights groups warned yesterday.

Huang, 55, who was arrested in 2016 for “leaking state secrets,” is being held in Mianyang Detention Center in China’s Sichuan Province, his mother said.

Huang ran a Web site called “64 Tianwang” (六四天網), named after the June 4, 1989 crackdown on protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

The Web site, which has reported on local corruption cases, police brutality and other topics, is blocked in China.

According to human rights organizations, Huang suffers from chronic kidney disease, hydrocephalus, or accumulation of fluid in the brain, and heart disease.

“Huang Qi’s current condition is extremely urgent,” said his 85-year-old mother, Pu Wenqing (蒲文清).

“I don’t want my son to die in prison. I hope the authorities will let him receive medical treatment,” she said, adding that he has been denied medical bail despite multiple pleas.

Fourteen organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Freedom House, released a statement calling for Huang’s immediate release.

Citing Huang’s lawyer, they said that he is not receiving adequate medical care in detention and his condition is so dire that there is an “immediate threat to his life.”

“His health condition is not very good. He has high blood pressure,” Huang’s lawyer Liu Zhengqing (劉正清) said, declining to speak further.

Pu said that her son has a blood pressure of 221 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) over 147mmHg — well above the normal range of 140mmHg over 90mmHg.

“The Chinese government must immediately and unconditionally release Huang, who has been detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression, and end its policy of denying prompt medical treatment to prisoners of conscience, which is a form of torture,” the statement said.

Mianyang Detention Center’s deputy director declined to comment.

Huang’s work has repeatedly drawn the authorities’ ire. In 2009, Huang was sentenced to three years in prison after campaigning for parents of children killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which left nearly 87,000 people dead or missing.

In 2014, Huang and at least three citizen journalists that contribute to 64 Tianwang were detained by police after the Web site reported on a woman who set herself on fire in Tiananmen Square. There is currently no trial date set for Huang.

In other developments, a researcher at the Unirule Institute of Economics, a prominent Chinese think tank repeatedly targeted by the government, yesterday said that he and the organization’s director have been barred from leaving the country.

Jiang Hao (蔣豪) told reporters that he and director Sheng Hong (盛洪) were due to attend a symposium at Harvard University marking the 40th anniversary of China’s “reform and opening up” policy.

Jiang said he was given no explanation by authorities when he was stopped at the airport on Saturday, but Sheng was told that it was a matter of national security when he was turned around on Thursday.

The institute, founded in 1993, advocates market-style economics and constitutional democracy, and has been repeatedly harassed by the authorities.

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