China’s first “cyber-dissident”, whose website reported on sensitive topics including human rights, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for leaking state secrets.

Huang Qi ran a website called 64 Tianwang – named after the bloody 4 June 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protesters.

His sentence is one of the harshest meted out to a dissident since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, according to court records.

Huang was guilty of “leaking national state secrets and providing state secrets to foreign entities”, the statement by the Mianyang intermediate people’s court said, adding that he would be deprived of political rights for four years.

Huang’s website, which reported on local corruption, human rights violations and other topics rarely seen in ordinary Chinese media, is blocked on the mainland.

The website was awarded a Reporters Without Borders prize in November 2016. A few weeks later, Huang was detained in his home town of Chengdu, according to Amnesty International.

Huang’s work has repeatedly drawn the ire of Chinese authorities. In 2009 he was sentenced to three years in prison after campaigning for parents of children killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which left nearly 87,000 people dead or missing and authorities facing huge public anger over shoddy building construction.

Five years later Huang and at least three citizen journalists who contribute to 64 Tianwang were detained by police after the site reported on a woman who had set herself on fire in Tiananmen Square.


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