[ASIA] Human rights group Human Rights Watch Friday urged diplomats in Beijing to send observers to the trial of Chinese Webmaster Huang Qi, calling it a significant test of the limits of free expression.
Huang Qi, a computer engineer, was charged with the political crime of “instigation to subvert state power.” In the indictment signed by Li Jian, chief of the Chengdu City Police on August 21, 2000, Huang Qi was accused of using his “Tianwang Missing Persons Web Site” to post material about various taboo topics, including the democracy movement, the Xinjiang independence movement, Falun Gong, and demands for the reversal of the official position on “June 4.” Huang Qi was detained on June 3, 2000.
Van der Made said the Huang Qi case should be of concern not only to the diplomatic community but to international corporations operating Web sites in China or promoting sales of Internet equipment and software, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
“This case is designed to send a warning to anyone who uses the Internet to transmit ‘sensitive’ material,” said Van der Made in the statement, adding that expressions of concern by foreign companies could help send a strong message to Beijing that efforts to censor the Internet and otherwise restrict freedom of expression could have a deleterious impact on the investment climate.
“Huang Qi, an urban, educated, middle class computer user, is exactly the kind of person that Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Motorola and others want to reach in China,” Van der Made said. “They have good reason to come to his defense.”
Human Rights Watch said that it has documented 20 cases of people who have been detained for actions relating to the Internet. Since the Internet in China became commercial in 1995, Chinese lawmakers have issued more than sixty regulations in an attempt, largely unsuccessful, to bring the Internet under state control.