China - Cyber-dissident Huang Qi kidnapped, foreign journalists arrested in Sichuan



    MONTREAL, June 13 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders is worried
about the kidnapping of leading cyber-dissident Huang Qi, the founder of the
human rights website 64Tianwang (www.64tianwang.com). He and two other
activists were forced to get into a car by three unidentified men at around
7 p.m. on 10 June in Chengdu, the capital of the earthquake-hit province of
Sichuan.
    The Chengdu police claim they know nothing about their whereabouts but
their abduction bears all the hallmarks of an operation by the Bureau of
Public Security and could be linked to the arrest the previous day of Zheng
Hongling, a retired university professor who posted a series of three articles
about the earthquake on a US-based website.
    "The abduction of Huang and his two companions one month to the day after
the Sichuan earthquake shows that the crackdown on press freedom activists
continues," Reporters Without Borders said. "We urge the authorities to
conduct an investigation to find out where they are, and to free them at
once."
    The press freedom organisation added: "We also voice our support for
Zheng, who was just using her right to free expression when she wrote three
articles criticising the way the authorities in Mianyang, the city where she
lives, handled earthquake relief operations. We call for her immediate release
as well."
    The editor of the 64Tianwang website, Zhang Guo Ting, said he thought the
abduction was linked to the latest article posted by Huang, which was about
Zheng's arrest on a charge of "divulging information abroad." Aged 53 and a
former professor at the University of Technology of the Southwest, Zheng and
her husband fled from the earthquake damage in Mianyang on 12 May and went to
stay with a friend, Huang Shaopu, in Chengdu.
    From there, Zheng wrote her three articles, entitled "Tales of my
adventures during the earthquake," for Observe China, a Chinese website hosted
in the United States. She was charged on 9 June with publishing articles
criticising the authorities for not letting NGOs do their job. She is being
held in Mianyang prison. Huang Shaopu was questioned by the police because the
articles were sent from his computer, but he said he did not know they were
being published.
    Every since the earthquake, 44-year-old Huang Qi had been posting
articles on 64Tianwang criticising the way the relief was being organised. He
wrote on 20 May: "The reports we are seeing are biased. In reality, it is very
difficult for NGOs to deliver food aid. They are obliged to go through
government channels. The government is using its propaganda to portray itself
as a saviour to little avail. Few citizens trust the government because of the
corruptions scandals that already occurred during similar disasters in the
past."
    Huang spent five years in Nanchong high security prison after being
arrested on 3 June 2000, the eve of the 11th anniversary of the Tiananmen
Square massacre. He was charged with subversion under articles 103 and 105 of
the criminal code for posting articles about the massacre by exiled dissidents
on his website, which he originally created as bulletin board for messages
about missing persons.
    Reporters Without Borders awarded him its Cyber-Freedom Prize in 2004 for
his online defence of free expression and human rights.
    Meanwhile police today expelled around 10 foreign journalists from a
neighbourhood of Dujiangyan, one of the cities that was badly hit by the
earthquake, Agence France-Presse reported. Two of them worked for the French
agency. They were trying to do a story about a school that collapsed in the
quake. Police manhandled some of the journalists and damaged their equipment.
    "We are seeing an all-out hunt for press representatives, with police and
soldiers blocking access roads and searching all vehicles," said Tom Van de
Weghe, the China correspondent of Belgian radio and TV broadcaster VRT, who
was arrested in Dujiangyan and Juyan. Yesterday, the Sichuan authorities had
nonetheless renewed press accreditation for journalists wanting to visit
quake-hit areas.

    More information about Chinese government restrictions on press freedom
regarding the 12 May earthquake in Sichuan:
    http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=27414

    The interview that Huang Qi's wife gave to TF1 in 2003:
http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=8572

    The October 2007 report "Journey to the Heart of Internet censorship":
http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=23924

    Articles on Zheng Hongling (in Chinese):

    - http://www.observechina.com/info/artshow.asp?ID=49485
    - http://www.observechina.net/info/artshow.asp?ID=49501
    - http://www.observechina.com/info/artshow.asp?ID=49535




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Executive director,
Reporters without borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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