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Website founder jailed for three years

(IFJ/IFEX) - November 23, 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns a sentence of three years' jail imposed against cyber dissident Huang Qi today by the Court of Wuhou in China's Sichuan Province.

Huang, 46, the founder of the 64 Tianwang website ( http://www.64tianwang.com ), was detained in June 2008 after posting an article online which criticised the Government's handling of the Sichuan earthquake disaster in May.

Local reports said the judge found Huang guilty of "illegal possession of state secrets" on the basis that Huang had disclosed confidential information from two municipal governments considered to be "state secrets".

However, Zeng Li, Huang's wife, told the IFJ that the information used by Huang regarding regulations for managing the complaints departments of local and central governments was publicly available on local government websites at the time the article was written.

"The conviction of Huang for making use of information that was already in the public realm is a gross miscarriage of justice," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

Police reportedly forcibly removed Zeng and Huang's mother from the courtroom today after they demanded an appeal.

Two elderly supporters attending the trial were reportedly assaulted today by unidentified people outside the court. Others were blocked entry to watch the proceedings.

Zeng said an appeal would be lodged and expressed concern about Huang's health and well-being. Huang's lawyer, Mo Shaoping, and Zeng have applied for medical parole six times without success.

"Huang's conviction marks a step away from China achieving the openness its authorities have promised," White said.

Huang was detained in 2000 and convicted of "subversion" in 2003 for critical commentary about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. He spent five years in jail before being released on June 4, 2005.

In 2008, Huang helped victims of the Sichuan earthquake gain access to humanitarian support and accepted foreign press interviews, which upset the local government.

The IFJ calls on China's courts to withdraw the case against Huang and free him immediately.
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