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Friday, 9 February, 2001, 12:19 GMT
Chinese webmaster on trial for 'subversion'
Huang Qi
Huang, seen here with his son, was arrested last June
A webmaster is to go on trial in China for subversion next week in the country's first-ever prosecution case of an internet content provider, court officials said on Friday.


This case is designed to send a warning to anyone who uses the internet to transmit 'sensitive' material

Human Rights Watch
Huang Qi, 36, who published articles on human rights on his website, will be tried next Tuesday at an open court in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch is urging diplomats in Beijing to send observers to the trial, "calling it a significant test of the limits of free expression".


Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Motorola and others... have good reason to come to his defence

Human Rights Watch
It said the case should also be of concern to international corporations operating websites in China or selling internet-related products.

"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," the organisation's researcher Jan Van der Made said.

Protester in front of tanks, Tiananmen protests
Mr Huang published articles about Tiananmen protests
"They have good reason to come to his defence."

Mr Qi's website, www.6-4tianwang.com, had published articles on Falun Gong, the 1989 Tiananmen square crackdown and the Xinjiang independence movement.

His trial underscores the Chinese Government's determination not to allow the internet to be used to distribute material that challenges the authorities.

Dialogues

Human Rights Watch said Mr Huang was reportedly beaten in detention in September, losing a tooth and being scarred on his forehead.

Are exchanges on human rights confined to polite rhetoric, or will China's dialogue partners take issue with the treatment of people like Huang Qi?

Human Rights Watch

It called in particular on countries having official "dialogues" on human rights with China to attend the trial.

Britain and the European Union both have dialogues meetings with China planned in February.

"It's precisely when serious violations arise that the human rights dialogues with China should be put to the test," Mr Van der Made said.

Tiananmen articles

Mr Huang set up the website in 1999 to publicise information about missing people.

The site gained popularity, and claims to have helped 10,000 people find their loved ones.

web
China remains wary of the internet
But it became a magnet for information about human rights and corruption.

And last June, after a number of articles were published about Tiananmen Square, Mr Huang was arrested.

None of the postings in question were written by Mr Huang, but were posted on the website by readers, his wife Zeng Li said.

"I think my husband is innocent, his only crime is that he was not a good manager and failed to delete the articles," she told the French news agency AFP.

Last year, the government announced a series of draconian regulations to control the content of news websites.

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