Gao Feng and Wong Lok-to | Radio Free Asia
Around 100 Chinese nationals have signed a petition calling on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to release a jailed rights activist, or at least allow him a final meeting with his mother.
Both Huang Qi and his mother Pu Wenqing are in failing health, but Pu told RFA on Thursday that she doesn’t have long left to live.
“I am seriously ill and have difficulty breathing,” Pu said. “I only have one request. I am calling on the central leadership [in Beijing] to send a team to get to the bottom of Huang Qi’s case and deal with it in a just manner.”
Pu, 87, was unable to speak for long, as she has terminal lung cancer, she said but thanked people for their support.
“I have a dozen or so diseases that are all incurable,” she said in an earlier interview on April 28. “I have a lung tumor that has metastasized and the original tumor has grown too.”
“I won’t be alive for much longer,” she said. “I think I will probably die without seeing my son again.”
Pu has repeatedly called for the last meeting with Huang, who suffers from kidney failure and coronary heart disease, among other things. But the authorities have refused to allow even a final phone call.
As well as the petition, activists have been calling prison bureau officials in the southwestern province of Sichuan, who referred inquiries to Bazhong Prison, where Huang is being held. Employees at the prison said the request would need to be “discussed with the family.”
Repeated calls to Bazhong Prison resulted in a busy signal during office hours.
Wide public support
Sichuan resident Xie Junbiao, who signed the petition, said Huang has many supporters among ordinary people who were helped by his organization to fight for their rights, often in relation to land grabs by local governments, forced evictions and other abuses of official power.
“There is a task force assigned to Huang Qi’s case, and anything to do with him, including whom he meets, communicates with, has to go through this group,” Xie said. “They have to get their leaders’ consent for things like phone calls.”
He said Pu remains under close surveillance, even on her deathbed.
“They have a team on surveillance downstairs [from her apartment] right now,” Xie said. “Medical staff from the hospital have been sent to stay at her home, which is also a stability maintenance measure.”
Xie said Huang’s supporters didn’t really expect their petition to have any effect in the face of such measures by the authorities but felt they needed to do something.
“We feel very helpless,” he said. “We are telling the truth but it doesn’t make any difference.”
A court in the southwestern province of Sichuan handed down a 12-year jail term to Huang, a veteran rights activist and founder of the Tianwang rights website, on July 29, 2019.
Huang was sentenced by the Mianyang Intermediate People’s Court to 12 years of imprisonment after it found him guilty of “leaking state secrets overseas.”
Miscarriage of justice
Huang’s lawyers and Pu have said all along that the case against Huang was a miscarriage of justice, even allowing for the traditionally harsh treatment of dissidents in China.
Huang, 57, has been identified by Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) as one of 10 citizen journalists in danger of dying in detention.
He has repeatedly denied the charges made against him and has refused to “confess.”
Huang’s Tianwang website had a strong track record of highlighting petitions and complaints against official wrongdoing, and injustices meted out to the most vulnerable in society, including forced evictees, parents of children who died in the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and other peaceful critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Until her illness progressed, Pu had been a vocal campaigner for Huang’s release on urgent medical grounds and says the charges against him are politically motivated, with no evidence to back them up.