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Earthquake Activist Freed after Three Years in Prison; Other Rights Defenders to Be Released This Month

June 10, 2011

On June 10, Sichuan earthquake activist Huang Qi (黄琦) was released from a prison in Chengdu, after completing a three-year term on the conviction of “illegal possession of state secrets.”

Huang, a long-time rights defender, is known for the help he provided to the victims of the May 2008 earthquake in Sichuan and for publicizing the plight of the parents who lost their children in the disaster. He was detained in June 2008, after publishing on his website, Tianwang Human Rights Center, findings of an investigation showing that a collapsed school was structurally unsound. He was tried in August 2009, and sentenced in November that year.

Today, after arriving home in Neijiang, Sichuan Province, Huang said: “When they were processing me at the police station, the officers warned me with this bullshit: do not contact or have any dealings with suspicious people. I told them, ‘I am a free citizen. I will not subject my actions to any [such] restrictions.’”

“The Chinese authorities have no legal basis to place restrictions on the freedom of movement and association on individuals who have completed prison terms and are not subject to post-release deprivation of political rights,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China (HRIC). “Ongoing harassment and abuse of citizens will only raise the already volatile level of social discontent and instability.”

Despite the current wave of crackdown, Huang is optimistic about rights defense work in the future: “I protested the authorities’ suppression of Sichuan activists such as Tan Zuoren (谭作人), Liu Xianbin (刘贤斌), and Chen Wei (陈卫). In the end, our rights defense group [Tianwang] did not fall apart. … Moreover, the international community is paying attention to Chinese rights activists. I am filled with confidence."

Later this month, three rights defenders are scheduled to be released: Li Zhuang (李庄), a criminal defense lawyer, Sun Xiaodi (孙小弟), an environmental activist, and Hu Jia (胡嘉), an HIV/AIDs activist. A fourth, journalist Qi Chonghuai (齐崇淮), who would have completed his four-year term on June 25, was sentenced on June 9 to eight more years. (See brief descriptions of these individuals below.)

Li Zhuang (李庄), criminal defense lawyer
Scheduled release date: June 11, 2011
Facility: Chongqing No. 2 Detention Center, Chongqing
Length of term served: one-and-a-half years
Crime convicted: falsifying evidence, witness tampering (伪造证据、妨害作证罪)
Post-prison restrictions: none

In 2009, Li, a prominent criminal defense lawyer from Bejing, was accused by a client he was representing in Chongqing—Gong Gangmo, a target of a gang crime crackdown—that Li told him to testify falsely that he had been tortured while in police custody. Many believe that the case against Li was politically motivated, and academics and lawyers criticized the flawed court proceedings. In April 2011, new charges—fraud and enticing a witness to fabricate evidence—were brought against him but were soon dropped for lack of evidence.

Sun Xiaodi (孙小弟), environmental activist
Scheduled release date: June 15, 2011
Facility:  Provincial No. 1 Reeducation-Through-Labor (RTL) Facility, Lanzhou, Gansu Province
Length of term served:  two years of RTL
Crime convicted: “providing state secrets overseas”
Post-prison restrictions: none

Sun Xiaodi was a worker at the No. 792 Uranium Mine in Gansu Province. For more than 20 years, Sun reported on nuclear contamination and the grave impact on the environment and well-being of workers. Sun was honored in 2006 with the Nuclear-Free Future Award. After Sun was awarded the prize, the authorities intensified their monitoring and harassment of him. In July 2009, Sun was ordered to two years of RTL. The RTL decision was based on the authorities’ claims that Sun stole information relating to the mine, which he gave to his daughter to supply to overseas organizations, and that he distorted facts, spread rumors, and incited the public with libelous slogans of “nuclear pollution” and “human rights violations.” His daughter, Sun Dunbai (孙敦白), was sentenced to one-and-a-half years of RTL on the same charges.

Qi Chonghuai (齐崇淮, also 齐崇怀), journalist
Original scheduled release date: June 25, 2011
Facility: Zaozhuang Prison, Tengzhou, Shandong Province
Length of term served: four years
First conviction (2007): extortion and blackmail(敲诈勒索罪)
Post-prison restrictions: none
Second conviction (2011): extortion and blackmail and embezzlement (职务侵占)
Length of prison term for second conviction: three years for “extortion and blackmail,” and six years for “embezzlement,” added to the original term of four years, minus one year.

Qi is a long-time journalist known for his exposes of official corruption and social injustices. He was detained in 2007, after he posted several forums, including Xinhuanet, on the Tengzhou municipal government’s use of tax money to construct a luxurious government office. Among the publications Qi had worked or written for are Fazhi Zaobao (法制早报), Renmin Gong’an Bao Shandong Zhoukan (人民公安报山东周刊), and China Security Produce News (中国安全生产报).

According to a blog post by Qi’s lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原), the prosecution reactivated Qi’s case based on alleged new evidence on the original “extortion and blackmail” charge, and on a new and separate accusation that Qi appropriated advertising money that belonged to the China Security Produce News, where he worked as reporter and deputy director. Qi’s lawyer wrote that Qi denied both charges and said that the authorities did not want him free because he had continued to write exposes during his imprisonment.

Hu Jia (胡佳), HIV/AIDS activist, environmental activist
Scheduled release date: June 26, 2011
Facility: Beijing Municipal Prison, Beijing
Length of term served: three-and-a-half years
Crime convicted: inciting subversion of state power (煽动颠覆国家政权罪) 
Post-prison restrictions: one year of deprivation of political rights

Hu Jia is a long-time HIV/AIDS activist, an internationally-recognized Chinese rights defender, and the recipient of the 2008 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought awarded by the European Parliament. A vocal critic of the Chinese government’s human rights violations, Hu was subjected to detention and house arrest many times as well as near constant police surveillance prior to his imprisonment. In September of 2007, Hu posted on his blog an article he wrote with lawyer Teng Biao, “The Real Situation in Pre-Olympics China” (奥运前的中国真相). Hu was detained in December 2007, and convicted of in April 2008. The court based its ruling on his communications with the foreign press and on articles he wrote critical of the Communist Party and the human rights situation in China, which were posted to the Internet as the country prepared for the opening of the 2008 Olympics Games. He entered prison in ill health, having been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver in 2006. His health has continued to deteriorate, and several applications for medical parole were denied. Hu’s wife, Zeng Jinyan (曾金燕), moved with their three-year-old daughter to Shenzhen from Beijing spring 2011. But Zeng said online recently that her landlord evicted her from her rented apartment, and Shenzhen state security told her that they wanted her out of the city. She said she is leaving Shenzhen next week.

For more information on Huang Qi, see:

For more information on Sun Xiaodi, see:

For more information on Hu Jia, see:

For more information on Qi Chonghuai, see:

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