China postpones quake dissident's trial

Mon Feb 2, 2009 7:37pm EST

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BEIJING Feb 3 (Reuters) - A Chinese court has postponed the trial of a rights campaigner detained after he gave help to parents of children killed in last year's devastating earthquake, his wife and lawyer said.

Huang Qi, 45, was detained in quake-hit Sichuan province last June and on Monday a court in the provincial capital Chengdu told his wife Zeng Li he would be tried on the secrets charge on Tuesday, she said by telephone.

Zeng said on Tuesday that a judge from the court called her to say the trial had been put off and no new hearing date was set. Huang's lawyers had complained that they were not given enough time to prepare his defence.

"The judge said the hearing was delayed to give the lawyers sufficient time," Zeng said by telephone. "I think the court realised that it had made a big mistake."

One of Huang's lawyers, Ding Xikui, said the court had also told him the trial had been postponed.

Huang was to face trial for "illegal possession of state secrets", a sweeping state security charge that can bring jail terms of up to three years in China.

Zeng said she did not know what specific accusations Huang faces. But she said she believed state authorities remain determined to try Huang because he offered to help parents who lost children in the May 12 earthquake, in which about 80,000 people died, many under collapsed schools.

Sichuan authorities have sought to silence protests and collective grieving by parents claiming shoddy building and lax safety checks contributed to the school collapses and whose complaints initially drew widespread domestic media attention.

Huang has run his own Tianwang Human Rights Centre and a Web site (www.64tianwang.com) critical of the Communist Party's restrictions on political rights.

He was convicted in 2003 of "inciting subversion of state power" and released from jail in 2005. (Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Nick Macfie)



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