Web Site Manager Huang Qi Released After Completing Sentence, But Restricted to Home Village

June 7, 2005

On June 4, Sichuan provincial authorities released Huang Qi after he completed a five-year prison sentence for subversion. According to the Voice of America, however, authorities have forbidden Huang to return to Chengdu, where his wife resides, and are forcing him to remain in the village where he is officially registered. In a VOA interview after his release, Huang said:

If one can say that advocating democracy and freedom, advocating the defense of human rights and the defense of the fundamental rights of the powerless masses, opposing domestic corrupt officials is the speech of a June 4th mass movement, or Falun Gong activist, then I will clearly tell them, I would take that as an honor.

In another post-release interview, Huang told the BBC that from the very beginning he thought that the charges against him -- "inciting subversion of state power" – were untenable.

Huang was arrested in Chengdu on June 3, 2000, then formally charged in August 2000 with "inciting subversion of state power." The indictment cited allegedly "subversive" material posted on Huang's Tianwang Web site (www.6-4tianwang.com) between March and June 2000.

In affirming Huang Qi's conviction, the Intermediate People's Court of Chengdu held:

This court believes that the accused Huang Qi's behavior of using the Internet to disseminate essays on matters such as "democracy," "June 4," and "Falun Gong," using rumormongering and defamation to incite subversion of the national regime and topple China's socialist system constituted the crime of inciting subversion of the national regime, and should be punished.

The court's decision in the Huang Qi case did not provide examples of any subversive written material. Instead, it provides only the titles of essays that, according to Huang, others wrote rather than him. The court made no attempt to show that the articles appearing on the Tianwang Web site had caused, or were in any way likely to cause, a threat to China’s national security. Moreover, the court did not undertake any analysis that balanced the right to freedom of speech and the need for national security, nor did it attempt to lay out any constitutional limitations on the authority of the government to criminalize certain types of speech. Instead, the court simply dismissed the issue of freedom of expression with language that seemed to imply defense counsel should not have bothered to bring it up in the first place:

Also, defense counsel takes the standpoint that Huang Qi has freedom of speech, and may freely express his opinion on a given matter. This court believes that freedom of speech is a political right of the citizens of China, but when exercising this right, no one may harm the interests or security of the nation, and may not use rumor mongering or defamation to incite subversion of the national regime. Therefore, the court takes note that the defense counsel takes a standpoint that only stresses the right of the accused, and ignores his duties.

Huang's case demonstrates that Chinese national security laws, at least as they are currently enforced by authorities, are not employed to restrict speech that represents an imminent threat to the security of the nation. Rather, they are used to silence people who criticize the current regime, but who are not advocating the overthrow of the government (by violence or otherwise).

More information on how the Chinese government uses that country's national security and state secrets laws to silence critics is available on the CECC Virtual Academy and in the Commission's 2004 Annual Report.