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China Human Rights Website Founder Kidnapped by Police in Earthquake Capital City

June 17, 2008

Reporters Without Borders
June 12, 2008

Reporters Without Borders is worried about the kidnapping of leading
cyber-dissident Huang Qi, the founder of the human rights website
64Tianwang. 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.
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