Detained Sichuan Rights Activist in Stark Warning to Police After Beatings

'All you'll wind up with is a dead body,' says Huang Qi, after repeated beatings by former officials-turned-inmates.

Huang Qi at the Mianyang Detention Center in Sichuan province, July 28, 2017.

A detained rights activist in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan has described being beaten up repeatedly in detention by fellow inmates, possibly as part of a bid to wring a "confession" out of him.

In a harrowing testimony recorded by his defense attorneys, Huang Qi, founder of the Tianwang rights website, said he had been beaten up by former government officials in detention for bribery and abuse of petitioners pursuing complaints against the government.

Defense lawyer Li Jinglin, who visited his client in the Mianyang Detention Center recently, said Huang had also warned his interrogators not to try to beat a "confession" out of him.

"He said it's not a question of whether or not he confesses, it's that the facts simply aren't there [to support the charges]," Li said. "He said that if they try to force him to confess, all they will wind up with is a dead body."

Li said he had reported the beatings to the Mianyang state security police and prosecutor's office, but had received no response.

Huang said two men had attacked him "several times" between Oct. 24 and Oct. 26 at the instigation of detention center guard Yang Maorong, and lodged an official complaint, but to no avail.

"The detention center [management team] all went and reviewed the surveillance camera footage of Huang Qi being beaten up, but they took no action against his attackers," Li said, adding that the attacks had left Huang with injuries to his legs.

Fellow defense attorney Sui Muqing said Huang's attackers were former officials with the local government.

"The people who beat him up are a former head of the Mianyang municipal land and resources bureau called Zhang Li, who is detained on suspicion of taking 20 million yuan in bribes," Sui said.

"Another was a former stability maintenance official called Miao Jiasi who was detained for beating up a petitioner and seriously injuring them," he said.

Sui said Huang, 54, who has multiple health problems, is also being prevented from buying regular daily necessities through the detention center store system, including toilet paper.

Medical issues

Huang was formally arrested by the state prosecution office in the provincial capital Chengdu in December 2016 on charges of "illegally supplying state secrets overseas."

He has been held in the police-run Mianyang Detention Center for nearly a year after the state prosecutor sent the case back to police for "further investigation" after finding insufficient evidence to proceed to trial.

His 83-year-old mother Pu Wenqing, who was hospitalized in December around the time of her son's arrest, told RFA that he suffers from radical glomerulonephritis, renal failure and cerebral edema, but "hasn't received any treatment."

She said the family has tried sending fresh clothing and bedding to Huang dozens of times, but that it had only been delivered to Huang three times in all.

Last month, Mianyang state prosecutor's office refused Huang's lawyers permission on two occasions to view the files.

Huang was detained and his home raided by police officers from the provincial capital Chengdu and the earthquake-hit regions of Neijiang and Mianyang.

He had already served a sentence of three years in prison from November 2011 after launching an investigation into shoddy school construction blamed for thousands of deaths during a massive 2008 earthquake.

Pu has also hit out at detention center authorities for forcing Huang to work standing up for several hours a day.

"I have asked them to allow Huang Qi to go home for humanitarian reasons," she said in an interview in July. "We want him to get medical treatment."

However, no response has been forthcoming.

Political retaliation

Sichuan-based author Tan Zuoren, who has himself served time in prison for exposing corruption behind the deaths of thousands of schoolchildren in the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake, said in a July interview that Huang is being targeted by local officials in a case of political retaliation.

"Huang has long been engaged in activism, but he isn't, strictly speaking, an opposition activist," Tan said. "He is more of a social justice advocate, whose philosophy is to stand with the powerless, the nobodies, and to offer them practical assistance."

"This is not about [fighting for] democracy or constitutional freedoms, at least that's not what he says about it," he said. "It is completely unjust to make a target of a person who works in the public interest."

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Tam Lee for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.