PEN International protests the additional eight-year sentence handed down to freelance journalist Qi Chonghuai on June 9, 2011, two weeks before the end of his four-year sentence for extortion and blackmail. It is widely believed that he has been targeted for his critical reporting, and for letters smuggled out of prison in 2009 alleging ill-treatment. PEN considers Qi Chonghuai to be held solely for peacefully exercising his right to free expression which is protected under Article 35 of the Chinese constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory. It calls for his immediate and unconditional release, and seeks assurances that he will not be ill-treated in prison.

Background Information

The following information was given by China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) in a briefing dated June 8-15, 2011:

On June 9, the Tengzhou City Court in Shandong Province convicted reporter Qi Chonghuai (齐崇淮) of “extortion and blackmail”(敲诈勒索罪) and “embezzlement” (职务侵占罪),sentencing him to eight more years in prison in addition to the four years he has almost completed. The court sentenced Qi to six years for “embezzlement” and three for “extortion and blackmail.” On top of a four-year sentence, also for “extortion and blackmail,” handed down in 2007, Qi has been sentenced to a total of 13 years in prison, of which he will serve 12. Prior to this recent conviction, he was originally scheduled to be released at the end of this month.

Qi’s latest conviction is based on four incidents that occurred prior to 2007 during which he received money while on assignment.  Police tortured him to coerce a confession regarding these payments during an interrogation in 2007; however, the procuratorate did not indict him on the basis of this confession when he was first prosecuted for “extortion and blackmail.” The decision to convict and sentence Qi earlier this month to such a long period of imprisonment, when he was due to be released from prison after serving time for the same crime, is a clear instance of politically-motivated persecution for his work as a muckraking journalist. Qi’s first conviction came after he reported on corruption related to the construction of the Haohua Government Office Building in Tengzhou. He was a reporter and former Shandong Bureau Chief for the Fazhi Morning Post, known for his articles exposing local corruption, social injustice, and human rights violations.

Qi was represented in court by Beijing-based lawyers Wang Quanzhang (王全章) and Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原), who indicated after the trial that the court disregarded their defense of their client, and that his conviction was a foregone conclusion. Qi’s wife, Jiao Xia (焦霞), attended the trial but was removed during the proceedings by a bailiff after she spoke out. She has since gone missing, and friends are concerned that, despondent over her husband’s fate, she may try to harm herself. During his time in prison, Qi has been tortured, beaten, and forced to perform hard labor. A series of letters he was able to smuggle out in 2009 described the abuse and mistreatment he experienced in graphic detail.

Qi Chonghuai was arrested with his assistant, freelance reporter He Yanjie, on June 25, 2007, in the city of Jinan, Shandong province, following the publication in June 2007 on the Xinhuanet web site of an article alleging corruption in the Tengzhou Communist Party. They were both charged with blackmail on August 2, 2007, for allegedly accepting bribes from local officials while researching the article. A photograpgher, Ma Shiping, was also detained for publishing photos in the article. Qi Chonghuai was held incommunicado for the first two months of his detention, and claims to have been repeatedly assaulted and threatened by security guards throughout his 11-month pre-trial detention. The case was turned back to the police for further investigation by the prosecution in February 2008 for lack of evidence. The trial on May 13, 2008, at the People’s Court of Tengzhou City, Shandong Province, reportedly did not comply with international standards of fairness.

Qi Chonghuai, aged 43, had been journalist for 13 years before his arrest. From 2004 to 2006, Qi worked for various publications, including the Shangdong Zhoukan (Shangdon Weekly), the Renmin Gong’an Bao (People’s Public Security News), and the Zhongguo Anquan Shengchan Bao. In June 2006, he started work as director of the newspaper Fazhi Zaobao (Legal System Morning News), which ceased publishing in December 2006 and was reformed with its existing staff as the Fazhi Ribao (weekend edition of the Legal System Daily). He has also worked as special correspondent with the Fazhi Zhoubao (Legality Weekly) and the Jizhe Guancha (Journalist Observer). Qi is known for his reporting on corruption and social injustice in Shangdong province both in the Chinese and overseas media, and is said to have been repeatedly warned by the authorities to cease such reporting prior to his arrest.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the harsh additional sentence handed down to journalist Qi Chonghuai, who appears to have been targeted solely for his critical writings;
  • Calling for a full and transparent investigation into the reported assaults on Qi Chonghuai while in detention so that those responsible may be brought to justice.
  • Reminding the Chinese authorities of their obligations under Article 35 of the Chinese constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a signatory, and seeking assurances that they are adhering to these international commitments;
  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression in China, including journalist Qi Chonghuai, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory.

Send Your Letter To

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
People's Republic of China

Chief Justice Mr. Wang Shengjun
President of the Supreme People’s Court
No.27 Dongjiaominxiang
Dongcheng District, Beijing 100745
People’s Republic of China

Mr. Cao Jianming
Procurator-General of the Supreme People's Procuratorate
Beiheyan Street 147
Dongcheng District, Beijing
People’s Republic of China

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for China in your country if possible.

Please contact PEN if sending appeals after July 31, 2011: ftw [at]