Chinese activist Huang Qi met his 87-year-old mom for the first time in four years

Chinese activist Huang Qi is one of the dissidents that was given the harshest prison sentences since Xi Jinping took power in 2012. On September 17, he was allowed to briefly meet his 87-year-old mother Pu Wenching for the first time since he was detained almost four years ago. According to sources, there were signs that Huang might have suffered from malnutrition during his detention.

Chinese human rights activist and the founder of Tianwang Human Rights Center Huang Qi was allowed to meet his mother Pu Wenching for the first time in almost four years on September 17. His 87-year-old mother was allowed to briefly communicate with Huang through videoconferencing on that morning.

According to Wang Jing, a member of the “Huang Qi Support Group,” Pu found out that Huang’s hands were swollen, which led her to suspect that her son might have suffered from malnutrition during his detention. After asking him some questions, she realized that he could only eat two eggs a week.

Since being arrested by the Chinese government in November 2016, Huang was sentenced to 12 years in prison for “intentionally leak national secrets” and “illegally provide national secrets to external forces.” Pu has been applying for visiting her son over the last few years, but the Chinese government always rejected her application.

Wang Jing said since Pu suffers from cataract, her vision has been blurry over the last few years. She could only see Huang’s hands and legs clearly. When Huang showed her his hands and legs, she asked Huang whether his legs were swollen or not. Huang said yes.

Pu ended up spending most of the meeting time asking about Huang’s physical conditions. She suspected that the reason why Huang’s legs and hands were swollen was because he lacks protein intake. When Huang told her that he only ate two eggs a week, the prison guard suddenly told her that the meeting time was up.

Additionally, Huang has been given three different kinds of medication for his kidney problem, his stomach issue and his high blood pressure. According to Wang Jing, the quality of the medications were all really good.

Deutsche Welle got in touch with Pu Wenching briefly on September 21, but she made it clear that she couldn’t take any media interviews now. She thanked the international community for continuing to pay attention to Huang’s case.

Huang is not allowed to meet his lawyers

In an audio recording shared with DW, Pu Wenching said she asked Huang to request for an additional day each week that he could call her on the phone. However, she wasn’t sure if authorities at the prison would approve the request or not.

“They were not sure when they could lift relevant controls imposed due to the COVID19 pandemic,” Pu said. “Since the pandemic remains highly transmittable, authorities told me that the lawyers still couldn’t meet my son. Even after the government lifted relevant protocols, the Ministry of Justice will send a notification to the local justice department, and the justice department will pass the message down to the detention center. I’m not sure how much longer we will have to wait.”

Pu said she still wanted to live and she would keep fighting to achieve that since she wanted to wait until Huang Qi is home. “Her diabetic complication has worsened to a point where her doctor admitted that there was nothing more he could do to treat her illness,” Wang said. “Pu was referred to another doctor.”

In the end, Pu paid 99 RMB for the doctor’s visit and the doctor only gave her some painkillers to ease her physical pain. He didn’t try to treat her other symptoms. “Even though I am living in despair, I still want to live on more day,” Pu said. “If I can live until my son is released, that will be great. These are merely my imagination, and I think it is impossible realistically.”

A mother’s “last confession”

In fact, Pu has been suffering from multiple illnesses over the last few years. In April 2020, Pu published an open letter titled “the last confession from Huang Qi’s mother.” In the open letter, Pu said she has been put under close government surveillance and she believes that the government hopes to force her to commit suicide. She was banned from going to Beijing and she couldn’t receive any media interviews. She also was not allowed to meet with anyone who has been advocating for her son.

The Chinese government also banned her from hiring human rights lawyers for Huang Qi and asked her to hire lawyers approved by the government. If she hired a lawyer that was not approved by the government, they would prevent the lawyer from meeting Huang. “She was diagnosed with a tumor in her lung last year, and in a few months, the tumor had spread to many parts of her body,” said Wang Jing. “Her biggest wish now is to see Huang Qi in person, but she knows the chance is probably really low.”

Huang Qi used to operate a website called Tianwang Human Rights Center, which documented corruption scandals, human rights violation issues and other topics that Chinese media couldn’t cover. After he was given a media freedom award by Reporters without Border in November 2016, he was arrested by local police in Sichuan Province.

Huang was then sentenced to 12 years in prison and he will also be deprived of political rights for four years. According to public data, Huang is one of the Chinese dissidents that received the heaviest jail sentence since Xi Jinping came into power in 2012.

This piece was first published in Mandarin on DW’s Chinese website.