A prominent Chinese human rights activist and journalist has been sentenced to 12 years in prison on charges of disclosing state secrets.
Huang Qi, 56, is the founder of the website 64 Tianwang, which documents alleged rights abuses by the government. He has been in custody for more than two years.
His sentence is one of the harshest given to a dissident since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, according to court records.
Huang was guilty of “leaking national state secrets and providing state secrets to foreign entities,” the statement by the Mianyang intermediate people’s court said.
His website, which reported on local corruption, human rights violations, and other topics rarely seen in ordinary Chinese media, is blocked on the mainland.
The journalism advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) refers to Huang as a “cyberdissident,” and awarded him its Cyberfreedom Prize in 2016. A few weeks later, Huang was detained in his hometown of Chengdu, according to human rights group Amnesty International.
Human rights groups, including the RSF, called on Xi on Monday to pardon Huang. “This decision is equivalent to a death sentence, considering Huang Qi’s health has already deteriorated from a decade spent in harsh confinement,” said RSF chief Christophe Deloire.
Huang’s mother, Pu Wenqing, has asked authorities to move him to a hospital to receive treatment for kidney disease, severe weight loss and other ailments.
Numerous Chinese dissidents have fallen ill while in state custody. Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo was serving an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power” when he died of liver cancer two years ago.
According to RSF, China is currently holding more than 114 journalists behind bars and is ranked 177th out of 180 in the RSF 2019 World Press Freedom Index.