China Change

Home » Posts tagged '2008 Sichuan earthquake'

Tag Archives: 2008 Sichuan earthquake

Who Is Huang Qi?

Tan Zuoren, January 13, 2019

Huang Qi’s trial opens today (January 14, Beijing time) in Mianyang Intermediary Court, Sichuan Province. – The Editors

Huang Qi, second from left, in April, 2016. Photo: RFA

Huang Qi (黄琦), 55, is from Neijiang City in Sichuan Province (四川内江市), southwestern China. He holds a bachelor’s degree and is the founder of 64 Tianwang (六四天网) as well as the China Tianwang Human Rights Affairs Center (中国天网人权事务中心). He has for years devoted himself to public interest work, and he is also a dissident. Huang Qi’s late father was a soldier. His mother is a retired cardiologist Ms. Pu Wenqing (蒲文清), 85 years old this year.

Huang Qi graduated from the Radio Department of Sichuan University in 1984. Following his graduation, he worked for years as a businessman. In 1998, Huang Qi and his wife Zeng Li (曾丽) pooled the resources of their family and founded the “Tianwang Center for Missing Persons” (天网寻人网站)—the first such Chinese public welfare organization—in Chengdu. On October 23 of the same year, he founded China’s first private office for locating lost persons. Through this organization, Huang Qi and his wife helped the police crack down on kidnapping and assist the relatives of abducted women and children in finding and rescuing their loved ones. 

Tianwang’s work was acknowledged and praised by major Chinese media. The People’s Daily published a special report called “The Many Exploits of Tianwang’s Searches for the Missing” (《天网寻人故事多》). Feature reports by other media include, among others, “My Dream Is to Reunite Ten Thousand Families” (《万家团圆是我的心愿》), “The Missing Persons Center Handles Every Case With Love and Tears” (《寻人事务所一一用爱和泪水来经营》), and “She Founded China’s First Missing Persons Center” (《她创办了中国首家寻人事务所》).

On June 3, 2000, Huang Qi was arrested and imprisoned for posting “sensitive rights defense information on the website of Tianwang Missing Persons Center. It was his first. After two and a half years of detention, he was sentenced to five years in prison for the charge of “inciting subversion of state power.” During his five-year sentence, Huang Qi was repeatedly beaten by police officers, prison guards, and other inmates, leading to serious ailments such as hydrocephalus, brain atrophy, bilateral ventricle enlargement, and narrowing of the urethra.

The core mission of 64 Tianwang is to “stand in solidarity with those who have no power, no money, and no influence.”

On June 2, 2005, after Huang Qi was released from prison, the Tianwang Missing Persons Center, still running when he served out his sentence, was officially renamed 64 Tianwang. The core mission of 64 Tianwang is to “stand in solidarity with those who have no power, no money, and no influence” (与无权无钱无势的弱势人群站在一起). It has served as a comprehensive, peaceful, and effective service to protect the rights of petitioners throughout the country who have no other recourse available to them. The volunteers who run 64 Tianwang adhere to the facts in their reports, exposing public corruption scandals and information about civil rights activism. It is the first private media organization in China to provide a wide range of information services for petitioners.

During the May 12 Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008, Huang Qi actively participated in disaster relief efforts, and was first to report the shoddily-built tofu-dreg classrooms (校园豆腐渣工程) scandal via 64 Tianwang, incurring the anger of the Sichuan provincial authorities who were under the factional patronage of Zhou Yongkang (周永康). Charged with “Illegal possession of state secrets,” Huang Qi was sentenced again, this time to three years in prison.

By 2011, when Huang Qi was released from his second sentence, he was suffering from a terminal kidney illness. Despite his condition, he continued his public interest activities with 64 Tianwang, and founded the China Tianwang Human Rights Center (中国天网人权事务中心). Huang Qi’s determination did not waver even as his family broke up. Together with other Tianwang volunteers, he established a nationwide information network for petitioners and civil rights, providing first-line, first-hand information from all levels of government about human rights and “stability maintenance” for the public.

On November 28, 2016, Huang Qi was accused of illegally providing state secrets to foreign agencies. This third time, he was arrested and imprisoned for disclosing the contents of a supposedly secret internal document.

On July 28, 2017, after six long-distance trips made in as many months, Huang Qi’s defense lawyer Sui Muqing (隋牧青)[1] was finally able to meet with the ailing Huang Qi at the Mianyang City Detention Center. By this time, Huang Qi’s condition was very serious, and the investigation associated with his criminal case had been concluded several days prior and had been transferred to the prosecution for review.

Despite the obvious deterioration of his health, Huang Qi was in good spirits during the meeting with Sui Muqing. He expressed full confidence that China would move toward constitutional governance, democracy, and social justice.

While Huang Qi remained unyielding throughout his 18-year campaign for civil rights, he has always been willing to provide constructive support for government work in specific issues. In helping a large number of petitioners resolve matters of practical urgency, he won their broad respect and support around the country. Internationally, Huang Qi has earned an honorable reputation for his contributions to the cause of human rights, and has received multiple international awards for his work.

Huang Qi’s rights-protection cause has inevitably hindered the authority and interests of many local governments. Naturally, he has become a crackdown target, spending half of the 18 years of his public interest work in jail! It is indeed very regrettable!

In fact, if we abandon the old ideological prejudice and the unilateral political/rule interest calculation, the human rights cause that Huang Qi supports is indisputably a force that is both in line with fundamental moral values and universal consensus. It is a cause that benefits the fundamental, long-term interests of all society, and as such ought to receive encouragement and support at all levels of government. Especially when China’s political system remains imperfect and society is rife with serious upheaval, Huang Qi is a humanitarian who strives both to protect disadvantaged groups, and as such, he helps maintain social stability. His is perhaps the greatest contribution a citizen can make to the nation!

In view of the uniquely arduous conditions that Chinese political prisoners must cope with, and in view of the painful experience of dissidents such as Li Hong (力虹), Cao Shunli (曹顺利), Peng Ming (彭明), Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), and Yang Tianshui (杨天水), we hope that the authorities will, in keeping with the humanitarian spirit, grant the terminally ill Huang Qi medical leave as soon as possible, so that he can access timely and effective treatment, as well as living conditions suitable for his medical state.

Political issues are complex and perilous, while the humanitarian spirit is humble and simple, and forever. Huang Qi’s release would also mean release for his aging mother, and it would not do the least harm to the authorities. The matter is just this simple: I hope that the relevant authorities will consider this matter and make the decision to release Huang Qi in time and avoid yet another human tragedy!

August 20, 2017

[1] Over the period of this article’s writing to now, both lawyer Sui Muqing and lawyer Liu Zhengqing (刘正清), who succeeded Sui to defend Huang Qi, have been disbarred.

Tan Zuoren (谭作人), born on 15 May 1954, is an environmentalist, writer and former editor of Literati magazine based in Chengdu, Sichuan province. He was imprisoned for five years from 2009-2014 for investigating student deaths during the Wenchuan earthquakes in 2008. [Wikipedia entry]

Translated from Chinese 《民间维权十八年,换来牢狱祸连连》

Support Our Work


At China Change, a few dedicated staff bring you information about human rights, rule of law, and civil society in China. We want to help you understand aspects of China’s political landscape that are the most censored and least understood. We are a 501(c)(3) organization, and your contribution is tax-deductible. For offline donation, or donor receipt policy, check our “Become a Benefactor” page. Thank you.

Are the Chinese People Undefeatable?  

By Niu Lehou, published: August 26, 2015

The devastation and fear in Tianjin are hardly over. Anticipating the Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping making a declaration that “the Chinese people are undefeatable” in the upcoming military parade celebrating the anti-Japanese victory 70 years ago, we offer you a translation of an internet gem by an anonymous writer with the online handle “Niu Lehou” (“牛乐吼”).  It was written in response to the same declaration made by the then Premier Wen Jiabao in the wake of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. – The Editors


Taking advantage of the time between the Wenchuan earthquake and its two aftershocks, Comrade Jiabao was duping his compatriots again, who were still reeling and dizzy from the quake, with his declaration that: “The Chinese people are undefeatable!”

This is utterly disrespectful of history and the reality of today.


Click to enlarge. h/t @WoodenHarper

We don’t have to go that far back. Just take the Treaty of Shimonoseki at the conclusion of the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), settled with a cash payment by China and the ceding of Taiwan—were the Chinese people defeated, or not? How about when the Eight Nation Alliance invaded China and put down the Boxer rebellion—were the Chinese people defeated, or not? Or in the Second World War, when China was almost ruined, saved by America and Russia who fought down the Japanese, allowing us to keep the joss sticks burning while struggling on the verge of death? But now we don’t thank our benefactors, instead we deceive others and ourselves and declare that we can’t be defeated.

Or we could discuss natural disasters: How about the tens of millions of Chinese who died in famine, floods, droughts, landslides and pestilence, going to meet their maker before their time had come, who couldn’t eat their fill while they lived and didn’t have a patch of dirt for their corpses when they died—do these unfortunates and bitter ghosts, once they arrive at the mouth of Comrade Jiabao, all become beings with remarkable abilities, great generals who’ve never lost a battle? What did they defeat? The hundreds of thousands who died in the Tangshan (唐山) earthquake, or the 70,000-80,000 in the Sichuan earthquake, lost their homes, families, and their own lives. What did they win?

When the Chinese people encountered the Communist Party, it was even more an utter routing, too horrible to tell. For over 60 years, in the clutches of the Communist Party, they’ve been ravaged, trampled, shamed, had their houses raided, been exiled, brainwashed, and executed. 19 years ago [in 1989] they summoned up the rare courage to rally for a battle on the Tiananmen Square and in Muxidi (木樨地) on Chang’an Avenue, but lost their makeshift helmets and armor and the streets were strewn with their bodies. From that point on their waist has been fractured, their back broken, and they still haven’t recovered today.  

Are the Chinese people really unbeatable? No. They can not only be beaten, but they’re easy to beat. And more, after beating them, you can subjugate them with simple methods. The Chinese are much easier to handle than the people of Iraq. First, the Party went around lynching and murdering them for no reason, made the streets run with blood, then it picked a few to rehabilitate and paid them a few dozen yuan compensation each month. Just like that, the Chinese wiped off with one stroke the hatred from their fathers, wives, and children being killed. Everyone was immersed in the benevolence of the Party, like a child who doesn’t blame his mother for being ugly, or a dog who doesn’t mind if his kennel is dirty.

The Chinese people don’t even know when they’ve been defeated. They’re a well-behaved people who remember being fed, but not being beaten.

When they fought with Heaven, the Chinese people lost; when they fought with earth, they lost; when they fought with the Communist Party, they got so badly beaten they lost their pants.

The one who truly can’t be defeated is the Chinese Communist Party: they won’t freeze to death in a blizzard, they won’t drown in a flood, and an earthquake doesn’t kill them either. In their long term battle against the Chinese people, they have been invincible, flying their flags high, winning every battle, and declaring victories over and over again.


Niu Lehou (牛乐吼), an anonymous Internet writer.  



Celebrating an Anti-Fascist Victory or a Fascist Victory?, by Chang Ping, August 24, 2015.

VPN down: China goes after Astrill, other anti-censorship apps in run up to WW2 anniversary parade, South China Morning Post, August 26, 2015.



Chinese Reactions to Japan’s Earthquake

I just wanted to quickly share the reactions of my Chinese co-workers to the earthquake in Japan.

On Friday I spent the entire afternoon trying to learn more about the earthquake, but my co-workers seemed oblivious to it (they weren’t working either). It turned out they had heard about the earthquake, and figured that Japan could handle such a large quake, and went on with their day.

When I showed them a video of the tsunami, their reaction was absolute horror. Watching the water rush over the farmland carrying flaming buildings looked like the end of the world. Grace couldn’t help whispering “Oh my God” a few dozen times as she watched the short clip.

In that moment the reality of the situation hit them.

Later on Friday afternoon when I told her that the tsunami warning was affecting the entire Pacific she questioned whether or not she would ever get a chance to visit Hawaii.

Grace was also surprised when I told her that the people of Tokyo had essentially lined up when bus service stopped, and started to walk home quietly. She said in China if there was this kind of disaster there would be wide-spread panic and chaos. She seemed jealous of the Japanese and their stoic public faces.

This morning the earthquake was the first thing Jasmine asked about. When I was talking with her, I said that it was fortunate that such a large quake had hit Japan because no other country in the world is as well prepared for dealing with such a catastrophic disaster. I think she understood that this was a nice way of saying that in China the death toll would already be hundreds of thousands. She was relieved to hear that the death toll was probably not going to be as high as that of the Sichuan Earthquake.

After our conversation stopped though she turned to Grace and said in Chinese (meaning not for my ears) “In China a dozen people die and nobody even notices.” She was critiquing her own country and how large a disaster has to be for China to even slow its pace.

For more reactions to the quake I suggest this post from which translated Chinese comments from internet forums as they reacted to the quake (Warning some bad language and disgusting nationalism), Ministry of Tofu also had an excellent post about the Chinese reaction to the civility shown by the Japanese after the quake (Chinasmack did too), as well as  “Schadenfreude and Sympathy in Shanghai” from