China sets trial for dissident who chronicled rights abuses

FILE - In this file photo taken on April 5, 2000, Huang Qi stands behind a computer displaying his web site, in his office in Chengdu, in China's Sichuan province. Huang, who founded a website documenting alleged rights abuses, will be tried on a charge of leaking state secrets next month. Huang has been jailed twice previously for his activism. (AP Photo/File)
FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2012, file photo, veteran rights activist Huang Qi works on his laptop in his home in Chengdu in southwestern China's Sichuan province. Huang, who founded a website documenting alleged rights abuses, will be tried on a charge of leaking state secrets next month. Huang Qi has been jailed twice previously for his activism. (AP Photo/Gillian Wong, File)

BEIJING — A Chinese dissident who founded a website documenting rights abuses will be tried on June 20 for allegedly leaking state secrets, his lawyer said Friday.

Huang Qi was arrested in November 2016. His attorney, Liu Zhengqing, confirmed his trial date and said he was charged with "illegally providing state secrets abroad."

Huang, 55, has been jailed twice before, including in 2008 after advocating for parents whose children were killed in a massive earthquake in the southwestern province of Sichuan. Thousands of students died when their shoddily built schools collapsed, but the government has never made public the results of any investigation or held anyone accountable.

In 1998, Huang founded the 64 Tianwang Human Rights Center and its accompanying website to chronicle the stories of people alleging abuses by authorities. Reporters Without Borders, which calls Huang a "cyberdissident," has awarded him its Cyberfreedom Prize.

Huang's mother, Pu Wenqing, said in a letter earlier this week that she worried about her son's ailing health. She urged authorities to transfer him to a hospital to receive treatment for his limited kidney function and severe weight loss, among other ailments.

Pu Fei, a colleague of Huang's, said the activist's supporters believe he should be freed for humanitarian reasons.

"We have called on the authorities to take into consideration his deteriorating health and let him go," Pu said by phone. "Not to mention they have kept him in jail without any evidence."

Since coming to power in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has overseen tightening restrictions on civil society, jailing human rights activists as well as the lawyers who defend them.

Speaking ahead of the 10th anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake earlier this month, Pu Wenqing said: "Huang Qi is innocent. I'm really worried my son will die in prison."

Calls to the courthouse where Huang is to be tried in the Sichuan city of Mianyang were not answered.

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