Qi Chonghuai (齐崇怀), a journalist with 14 years of experience, is best known for his exposés on official corruption and social injustice and has been called the “Anti-Corruption Reporter” and “Reporter of Conscience.” The publications he has worked for include Renmin Gong’an Bao Shandong Zhoukan (人民公安报山东周刊), China Work Safety News (中国安全生产报), and Fazhi Zaobao (法制早报).
In June 2007, Qi made public on Xinhuanet and other major mainland Chinese websites photos of an ultra-luxurious government building constructed with taxpayers’ money in Tengzhou, a relatively poor county in Shandong Province back then. The photos prompted an uproar among netizens who posted hundreds of thousands of comments criticizing the Tengzhou government.
Later that month, Qi was detained on suspicion of “economic problems.” In May 2008, he was sentenced to four years of imprisonment for “extortion.” One month following his conviction, Qi was honored by the National Press Club in Washington D.C. with its John Aubuchon Freedom of the Press Award for his effort to “reveal corruption.” In August, he was transferred to Tengzhou Prison.
While in prison, Qi worked in underground mine shafts, was violently assaulted several times, had his right rib broken, and was severely injured. He wrote a 300,000-character series of articles about the mistreatment of prisoners that he witnessed, which were confiscated by prison authorities in April 2009. The following month, Qi narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on him in the mine where he worked. In June, he was transferred to Zaozhuang Prison, also in Shandong. The confiscated articles eventually found their way out of prison, and were published on websites outside of China in late 2009.
In May 2011, a month before Qi’s scheduled release date, the Tengzhou Municipal Party Secretary and other officials met with Qi in prison. Qi told them that after his release, he would fight them until the end. On June 9, 2011, the Tengzhou Municipal People’s Court “retried” him based on alleged new evidence and gave him a new sentence of 13 years with a one-year reduction. The new verdict effectively compelled Qi to serve eight more years. Qi’s wife, who is ill, and two children are living in extreme hardship.