Communiqué Alleging Arbitrary Detention and Torture of Huang Qi – September 2017

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Submission to:

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Communiqué on Behalf of Huang Qi, Citizen of the People’s Republic of China,

Alleging Arbitrary Detention, Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and Reprisals against a Human Rights Defender

 

I. IDENTITY

1. Family name: Huang ()

2. First name: Qi ()

3. Sex: Male

4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): April 7, 1963

5. Nationality/Nationalities: People’s Republic of China

6. (a) Identity document (if any): ID Card

(b) Issued by: N/A

(c) On (date): N/A

7. Profession and/or activity (if believed to be relevant to the arrest/detention):

Huang Qi, a prominent citizen journalist, has been the director of the China’s first-known human rights monitoring website, 64 Tianwang Human Rights Center (http://64tianwang.com/), which he established in 1998. 64 Tianwang first disseminated grassroots reports about citizens who had been trafficked and forcibly disappeared, and by the mid-2000s it had evolved to report on other human rights violations and complaints against government officials. Huang has been targeted by authorities since he began his citizen journalism, and has served two prison sentences, totaling eight years, in reprisal for his work. He was given a five-year sentence in 2003 for “inciting subversion of state power” and a three-year sentence in 2009 for “illegal possession of state secrets,” in relation to his meeting with families of children who died in school buildings that collapsed in the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province. After each release from prison, Huang resumed his reporting on China’s human rights situation. Huang Qi and 64 Tianwang have received international recognition, including two from Reporters Without Borders, which awarded 64 Tianwang its Press Freedom Prize in 2016 and honored Huang in 2004 with the Cyber-Freedom Prize.

8. Address of usual residence: Neijiang City, Sichuan Province

II. Arrest

1. Date of arrest: November 28, 2016

2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): Residence in Neijiang City, Sichuan Province (see address above)

3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: Public security officers from the cities of Chengdu, Mianyang, and Neijiang

4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority? No

5. Authority who issued the warrant or decision: N/A

6. Reasons for the arrest imputed by the authorities: N/A

7. Legal basis for the arrest including relevant legislation applied (if known): N/A

III. Detention

1. Date of detention: December 16, 2016 (arrested)

2. Duration of detention (if not known, probable duration): Huang Qi has been detained since November 28, 2016 (nearly 10 months at the time of this communication)

3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: Mianyang City Public Security Bureau

4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): Mianyang City Detention Center (Sichuan Province)

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Sichuan Province Public Security Department

6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities: “Illegally disseminating state secrets overseas”

7. Legal basis for the detention including relevant legislation applied (if known): Article 111 of China’s Criminal Law (“illegally disseminating state secrets overseas”) stipulates: “Whoever steals, spies into, buys or unlawfully supplies State secrets or intelligence for an organ, organization or individual outside the territory of China shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than five years but not more than 10 years; if the circumstances are especially serious, he shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than 10 years or life imprisonment; if the circumstances are minor, he shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than five years, criminal detention, public surveillance or deprivation of political rights.”

IV. Describe the circumstances of the arrest.

Huang Qi was seized from his home in Neijiang City, Sichuan by approximately 15 police officers from three different cities (Chengdu, Mianyang, and Neijiang) in the late evening of November 28, 2016. At that time, officers searched his residence and confiscated some of Huang’s possessions, and subsequently disappeared him. When Huang was taken into custody, his mother also went out of contact, as did a 64 Tianwang volunteer, Pu Fei (浦飞), who had sent out instant messages about Huang’s detention.

V. Indicate reasons why you consider the arrest and/or detention to be arbitrary.

The detention of Huang Qi, which has included alleged torture and other forms of ill-treatment, is apparent reprisal for his exercise of free expression and association rights through his work with the 64 Tianwang Human Rights Center. Huang has been detained during a period in which Chinese authorities have heightened its suppression of groups and individuals that report on human rights abuses inside China. Those persecuted include two citizen journalists who had been volunteering with 64 Tianwang before being detained and eventually imprisoned; Ms. Wang Jing (王晶) was sentenced to four years and 10 months in April 2016 after being convicted of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” and Ms. Wang Shurong (王淑蓉) was issued a six-year sentence in April 2017 upon conviction for “using dangerous methods to undermine public security” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”

64 Tianwang’s exposure of a police document issued by the Sichuan Province Public Security Department in March 2016 appears to have played a role in Huang’s current detention, constituting a violation of his free expression and association rights. The document ordered authorities to suppress Huang and the reporting by 64 Tianwang, claiming it was a “reactionary overseas website that specialized in sending information on scandals inside China to foreign countries.” On April 6, 2016, 64 Tianwang published a report about this plan by provincial officials, including with an image of the police notice, likely making Huang, his colleagues, and his website only a greater target of authorities. In February 2017, Huang’s lawyers, Sui Muqing (隋牧青) and Li Jinglin (李静林), met with Mianyang City national security officers to discuss Huang’s case. Officers told them that the case relates to “states secrets” due to the exposing of the police document. In fact, government officials had retroactively classified the police document as “top secret,” taking advantage of loopholes in China’s state secrets law.

Various procedural and legal violations have occurred in Huang’s case. No official detention notice was provided to his family when he was taken into custody, a violation of China’s Criminal Procedure Law (CPL, Article 83), which stipulates that a public security bureau must produce an official notice when placing an individual under detention. Huang was forcibly disappeared for the first weeks of his detention, and authorities did not allow him to meet with a lawyer during the first eight months in detention. Huang’s first lawyer visit occurred only on July 28, 2017, with lawyer Sui Muqing, and eight days after police recommended the case for indictment. Authorities have denied visits on the grounds they might “endanger national security” (i.e., Huang’s case allegedly involves “state secrets”), a restriction that Chinese authorities frequently apply in cases of detained human rights defenders (CPL, Article 37). Authorities have used this legal basis as an exception provided by Article 37, which also states a detainee should be given access to a lawyer within 48 hours of a request. Pursuant to the “Body of Principles for the protection of all persons under any form of detention or imprisonment,” a detainee should be entitled to communicate and consult with his or her legal counsel and allowed adequate time, which was denied to Huang.

After the detention center visit with Huang in July 2017, Sui reported that Huang’s longstanding poor health had worsened, and that detention center authorities had stopped providing Huang’s medical treatment on July 5. The reported cessation of medical care has occurred as several of Huang’s health problems have turned life-threatening, creating fears by his family and supporters that he may die in detention. (In 2010, Huang was diagnosed with incurable and potentially fatal crescentic glomerulonephritis, which had led to limited kidney function. To treat the condition, Huang reportedly must take nine medications daily and has frequently been hospitalized, including just months before he was detained in 2016.) Sui has indicated that Huang’s crescentic glomerulonephritis had necrotized, putting him at risk of rapid renal failure, and that he is also suffering from hydrocephalus (accumulation of fluid in the brain), heart disease, emphysema, and effects of pneumonia. Sui observed that Huang has also lost a great deal of weight.

At the meeting on July 28, Huang also told Sui that he had been interrogated by rotating teams of several dozen investigators and forced to stand for four to six hours a day over a period of several weeks, even in his extremely weak physical state. Huang said that officers had reportedly tried to get him to confess to crimes while being videotaped—a tactic used against many other Chinese human rights defenders in the past two years—but Huang has not yet been coerced into confessing to any crimes.

The ongoing mistreatment of Huang mirrors previous retaliation against him during periods of incarceration. When in police custody in the past, Huang was often tortured, including being shackled and physically and sexually assaulted, and often forced to sleep next to the restroom. When Huang was in prison in 2009, his lawyers reported that he had two tumors growing on his chest and stomach, and that he was suffering from headaches and cardiac issues. During that sentence, his lawyers applied for Huang to be released on bail for medical treatment, but authorities never responded.

The deprivation of medical treatment of Huang reflects a persistent and well-documented form of torture against incarcerated human rights defenders in China, and recently led to the death of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo in July 2017. Huang Qi’s life-threatening health problems qualify him for release on medical grounds, according to “Measures for Carrying Out Medical Parole for Prisoners” (issued by China’s Ministry of Justice). Chinese authorities’ failure or refusal to provide adequate medical treatment Huang constitutes ill-treatment. The “Regulations on Detention Facilities” (2012, Article 18) and “Measures for the Implementation of the Regulations on Detention Facilities” (2012, Article 26), which stipulate that incarcerated individuals in China should receive prompt medical care, have not been enforced in Huang’s case. The ill-treatment of Huang violates, among other international standards, the Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners.

Huang Qi has been detained solely due to the peaceful exercise of his rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The circumstances of his detentions satisfy Category II (i.e., when the deprivation of liberty results from the exercise of the rights) and freedoms guaranteed by articles 7, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, and 21 of the UDHR.

VI. Indicate internal steps, including domestic remedies, taken especially with the legal and administrative authorities, particularly for the purpose of establishing the detention and, as appropriate, their results or the reasons why such steps or remedies were ineffective or why they were not taken.

Lawyers Sui Muqing and Li Delin have applied multiple times for Huang be released on bail on medical grounds, including in January 2017, twice in February 2017, and in April 2017. Authorities have denied each of these applications. International and domestic human rights stakeholders have called widely for Huang’s release on humanitarian grounds, citing his worsening health, as well as on the grounds of his arbitrary detention. These advocacy efforts have been to no avail.

Huang’s lawyers have submitted a request to Mianyang City Public Security Bureau to make public Huang’s medical history, any medical treatment he has received, his diet in detention, and other information related to his health. However, Mianyang City PSB authorities refused to grant his request.

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