China – Harsh punishments metered out for speech-related offenses; Deaths in custody, and execution fears

While the Chinese government has developed one of the world’s most technologically sophisticated systems for information control, authorities continue to use low-tech tactics to punish and deter critical reporting and commentary. The following are a selection of such cases from the past few months:

  • Long prison sentences: Huang Qi, the founder of the human rights website 64 Tianwang, was sentenced to 12 years in prison on July 29 for “intentionally leaking state secrets.” In late June, authorities sentenced Liu Pengfei, the moderator of a popular WeChat account that provided Chinese readers with access to foreign news, to two years’ imprisonment. Liu’s arrest came after warnings issued by state media in May that WeChat administrators could be held responsible for discussions in their groups. Mongolian historian Lhamjab A. Borjgin was sentenced on July 3 to one year in prison with a two-year reprieve for “national separatism” and “illegal business [activities]” related to dissemination of his book, China’s Cultural Revolution.
  • Deaths in custody, and execution fears: Chinese Human Rights Defenders reported on September 23 that police had alerted relatives of activist Wang Meiyu that he had died in custody in Hunan. Wang was detained in July after holding a placard in public calling for Xi Jinping’s resignation and the conduct of national elections. In a separate case, Meng Hong, an elderly Falun Gong practitioner sentenced to prison in 2013 for handing out flyers, reportedly died on July 30 while in custody, according to her daughter living in the United States. In Xinjiang, scholar and former president of Xinjiang University Tashpolat Teyip may be “imminently” executed, according to Radio Free Asia. Teyip’s brother has not been able to contact him since his disappearance in 2017 en route to a conference in Germany.

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