Reporters Without Borders condemns the government’s continuing persecution of dissident Huang Qi for criticising relief efforts after the May 2008 earthquake in the southwestern province of Sichuan on his blog, 64tianwang. Held since 10 June 2008, Huang appeared in court today in the provincial capital of Chengdu on a charge of illegal possession of state secrets, which carries a maximum three-year sentence.
Fellow-blogger Tan Zuoren, who also wrote for 64tianwang, is due to appear in court on 12 August on a charge of “inciting subversion of state authority” for writing about the allegedly "tofu" (poor-quality) construction methods that caused schools and other buildings to collapse in the quake while nearby government buildings did not. He was arrested on 28 March 2009. He faces a potential five-year sentence.
“These two bloggers must be released without delay as the charges brought against them are baseless,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Huang has a tumour and his state of health, which is very worrying, is not compatible with further detention.”
Around 7,000 schools collapsed in the earthquake, causing the deaths of 5,335 children, according to official figures released a year afterwards. Huang and Tan reported the evidence of poor-quality construction on their blog.
While the government was appealing for national unity in the face of disaster, Huang also reported the lack of confidence in the transparency and effectiveness of its relief efforts that victims were voicing.
“These bloggers acted courageously as concerned citizens by criticising the difficulties encountered by humanitarian NGOs in their efforts to bring relief to victims, and by supporting the parents of children killed in the earthquake,” Reporters Without Borders added.