02/03/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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The trial of Huang Qi, advocate for Sichuan survivors, postponed

Some 10,000 pupils died in last year’s 12 May earthquake under the rubble of shoddily-built schools. China’s government has promised justice but it is cracking down on anyone who protests. Gao Zhisheng is home two weeks after he “disappeared.”
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A Chengdu court has postponed the trial of Huang Qi, a rights campaigner detained after he helped parents of children killed in last year's devastating earthquake. Yesterday the court told Mr Huang’s wife, Zeng Li, that he would be tried on secret charges, but a judge from the court called her today to say the trial had been put off to give Mr Huang's lawyers enough time to prepare his defence.

If charged with “illegal possession of state secrets”, he could get up to three years in prison with few chances of a proper defence.

According to Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch, the definition of what constitutes state “secrets” is so broad that it can be applied to just about anything. Not even lawyers or judges can see much of the evidence or question it.

Huang helped parents of children killed under the rubble of schools destroyed by the devastating earthquake of 12 May last year. After that, parents protested because of shoddy school construction.

Mr Huang was arrested on 10 June after his website, www.tianwang.com, published demands for investigation and compensation by five parents who lost children under the Dongqi Middle School in the town of Hanwang.

The authorities have tried to stop all protest, trying to reassure the public that it would conduct a quick public inquiry. So far though, no investigation results have been released.

Huang, founder of the Tianwang Human Rights Centre and the aforementioned website critical of the Communist Party's restrictions on rights, was convicted in 2003 of “inciting subversion of state power” and released two years later.

In the meantime human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng has been released, Human Rights Watch reported. He had disappeared on 19 January.

Mr Gao, who had defended small property owners against the authorities, was arrested in August 2006 and September 2007 for writing an open letter to the US Congress denouncing China's human rights situation.

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