Journalist Who Exposed Corruption Gets Four Years

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Journalist Who Exposed Corruption Gets Four Years

Authorities Must Protect Journalists and Freedom of the Press

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, May 14, 2008) – Yesterday, Qi Chonghuai (齐崇淮/齐崇怀), a Legal Rule Morning Post (fazhi zaobao) reporter known for his articles exposing local corruption, was convicted of “extortion and blackmail” and sentenced to four years in prison by Tengzhou City Court, Shandong Province.

Qi’s trial started at 9 a.m. and ended at 8 p.m. The verdict was announced an hour after the trial ended. During a brief break at noon, police dragged Qi out of the courtroom when he tried to comfort his sobbing wife who was attending the trial. When the trial resumed, Qi told his lawyers that two court policemen (with badge numbers 375366 and 375365) held him down and violently hit his head on the floor six times.

During the trial, the prosecutor’s “evidence” against Qi included documents supplied by the local Publicity Department and Public Security Bureau (PSB) which supposedly indicated that Qi had extorted from the government agencies. No witnesses were called, nor were any bank statements or receipts presented.

Qi’s lawyers, Li Xiongbing (黎雄兵) and Li Chunfu (李春富), plead not guilty on Qi’s behalf. “This is not a case of ‘fraud’ or ‘extortion,’” said one of the lawyers. “It is an incident where [a journalist] is suppressed and framed for using the media to monitor the conduct of public authorities.”

Qi was detained on June 25, 2007. When police took Qi away from his home, they told his family that he was being detained for suspected “economic crimes” and “fake journalism”, but no warrant was presented. On August 2, Qi was formally arrested on suspicion of “extortion and blackmail”.

During his 11-month detention before trial, Qi reported having been threatened and beaten. In August, Qi told his lawyers that police slapped his face continuously about twenty times to force him to confess to the crime.

Background

Qi has been a journalist for 13 years and has frequently reported on government and business corruption. Although repeatedly warned by the authorities to cease such reporting, Qi refused to be silenced. In April 2007, prior to his detention, Qi drew wide attention when he posted online photos and an article which exposed official corruption and the construction of luxury government office buildings in Tengzhou City.

Recommendation

CHRD believes Qi’s trial was unfair. The right to a fair trial is guaranteed in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which China has signed (but not ratified). The right to examine witnesses, which was violated in Qi’s trial, is guaranteed specifically in Article 14(3)(e) of the ICCPR.

CHRD condemns police violence against Qi during the trial and the use of trumped-up charges to imprison him for the peaceful activities of reporting on official wrongdoing and corruption. The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed in Article 19 of the ICCPR and in Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution.

CHRD urges the government to take effective measures to respect freedom of the press and protect writers and journalists. In May, Chang Ping (长平) was fired as the assistant editor of Southern Metropolitan Daily, and Zhou Yuanzhi (周远志), a Hubei-based writer, was detained, two recent cases in which individuals were punished for expressing dissident opinion and which raise serious alarm over China’s deteriorating human rights records prior to the Olympics.

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