Sichuan Rights Activist Allowed Video Call With Dying Mother

The terminally ill mother of jailed rights activist Huang Qi has been allowed a video call with her son after months of petitioning prison authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan.Huang's mother Pu Wenqing -- a medical doctor -- told RFA on Friday that her request was granted as she nears the end of her life.Pu made a 30-minute video call with Huang, who is serving a 12-year jail term on "spying" charges at Sichuan's Bazhong Prison on Thursday."It was basically about his medical condition," Pu said of the conversation."He showed me his hands, and I asked if his feet were swollen, and he said yes, they were," Pu told RFA. "I am pretty deaf now, so he had to say it again."I told him the swelling could be the result of low protein in his diet, and told him he should eat at least one egg a day," she said. "He told me the prison had allocated him two eggs a week.""Our time was up before we had finished talking," Pu added.Pu said she has asked Huang to video call with her every month."I don't know whether he will be able to do this," she said. "I heard that Huang Qi's lawyers aren't allowed to visit right now because of the pandemic."Wang Jing, a friend of the family, said Pu had felt rushed during the video."They only talked about Huang Qi's current condition really," Wang said. "[Huang said he is taking] three different medications for his stomach, for the kidney disease, and for high blood pressure."Online journalist Yang Xiuqiong, who was a co-defendant in Huang's case, said the video call had only come after a wait of four years."[We] have waited too long for this day," Yang said. "His mother should tell everyone about Huang Qi's situation in prison."'Miscarriage of justice'A court in the southwestern province of Sichuan handed down a 12-year jail term to Huang, a veteran rights activist and founder of the Tianwang rights website, on July 29, 2019.Huang was sentenced by the Mianyang Intermediate People's Court to 12 years' imprisonment, after it found him guilty of "leaking state secrets overseas."Huang's lawyers and Pu have said all along that the case against Huang was a miscarriage of justice, even allowing for the traditionally harsh treatment of dissidents in China.Huang, 57, has been identified by Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) as one of 10 citizen journalists in danger of dying in detention.He has repeatedly denied the charges made against him and has refused to "confess."Huang's Tianwang website had a strong track record of highlighting petitions and complaints against official wrongdoing, and injustices meted out to the most vulnerable in society, including forced evictees, parents of children who died in the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and other peaceful critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.Until her illness progressed, Pu had been a vocal campaigner for Huang's release on urgent medical grounds, and says the charges against him are politically motivated, with no evidence to back them up.Reported by Qiao Long and Man Hoi-tsan for RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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Rights Groups Call For Release of Lao Blogger ‘Mouay’ On Anniversary of Arrest

Rights groups called on Laos this week to free a Lao blogger arrested a year ago and jailed for five years for criticizing the government’s handling of floods in a Facebook post, saying she did not deserve punishment for expressing her opinions online. Houayheuang Xayabouly, 30, also known by her nickname Mouay, was arrested Sept. 12, 2019, a week after she voiced her concern about the government response to flooding in the country’s southern Champassak and Salavan provinces in a Facebook Live video. The delayed government response had left many Lao villagers stranded and cut off from help, she said in the video, which was viewed more than 150,000 times. When she was sentenced in November to five years under Article 117 of Laos’ Criminal Code, state media reported she confessed to her crime in detention. A Champassak official told RFA at the time that Mouay was "guilty of campaigning against, defaming, and attempting to overthrow the party, state, and government." “Lao authorities should release Mouay and apologize to her and her family for jailing her,” Phil Robertson—deputy director of the Asia-Pacific region for Human Rights Watch—told RFA’s Lao Service Monday. “She did nothing to deserve her punishment. She only expressed her opinion, and the Lao government should have listened and responded to this, and not jailed her,” Robertson said, adding that he is concerned about Mouay’s health and living conditions the Champassak provincial jail, where she is being held. Bounthone Chanthavong-Wiese, president of the Germany-based Alliance for Democracy in Laos, noted that Mouay has already been in jail for a year. “I want to demand that the Lao [People’s Democratic Republic] government free Mouay immediately, because she did nothing that would have harmed the country.” Also speaking to RFA, former Thai Human Rights Commission member Angkana Nilapaijit said all that Mouay did “was to exercise her rights as a human being and exercise her freedom,” while a Thai-based Lao activist noted that anyone convicted of a political crime in Laos “will be punished forever.” “Even after being released, you will never be totally free. You will be held under house arrest and closely monitored,” the activist said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Attempts by RFA to reach Mouay’s family members and the Champassak Police Department for comment met with no response. Others also held Other Lao Facebook users have been detained and jailed on similar charges, including three young Lao workers who criticized the Lao government in Facebook postings while living in Thailand. Somphone Phimmasone, Lod Thammavong, and Soukan Chaithad disappeared in March 2016 after returning to Laos to renew their passports. Charged with criticizing the Lao government online while working abroad, the three were sentenced in a secret trial to terms ranging from 12 to 20 years in rulings described as harsh and unjust by rights groups worldwide. Last month, Sangkhane Phachanvanthong became the latest known victim of a government that locks up citizens who post popular gripes and mild criticism on Facebook about graft and abuses in the impoverished one-party state. Sangkhane “Thitsy” Phachanthavong was arrested at his home in southern Laos on Aug. 26 and is being questioned in jail about links to “an anti-government group of overseas Laotians,” police sources told RFA. The arrest on Aug. 26 of was condemned by human rights groups. In June 2019, a Lao resident of Poland named Bounthanh Thammavong was released from prison after serving a four-year term for saying on Facebook that there was no press freedom in Laos. In an annual survey of press freedom released in April, Laos was ranked 172 out of 180 countries for 2019 by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) which said the ruling Lao People’s Revolutionary Party “exercises total control over the media.” Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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