Asia

Prominent China #MeToo journalist Sophia Huang Xueqin sentenced to five years in jail, supporters say


A Chinese court has sentenced the prominent #MeToo journalist Sophia Huang Xueqin to five years in jail and the labour activist Wang Jianbing to three and a half years, almost 1,000 days after they were detained on allegations of inciting state subversion, according to supporters.

On Friday, supporters of the pair said the court had found them guilty and given Huang the maximum sentence. The jail terms would take into account the time they had already spent in detention. A copy of the verdict said Huang was also deprived of political rights for four years and fined $100,000 RMB (£10,800). Wang faced three years of deprivation of political rights and was fined $50,000 RMB.

Huang told the court she intended to appeal, the supporters said.

“[The sentence] was longer than we expected,” said a spokesperson for the campaign group Free Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing, asking to remain anonymous for safety concerns. “I don’t think it should have been this severe, and it is completely unnecessary. So we support Huang Xueqin’s intention to appeal.”

Just one day’s notice was given of Friday’s hearing, and the public and media were kept away by a heavy police presence of both uniformed and plain clothed officers, as well as court workers and large barriers. The closed-door trial began in September last year, two years after their arrest.

Huang, a well-known feminist activist and journalist who reported on China’s #MeToo movement and the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests, and Wang were arrested in September 2021, one day before Huang was due to fly to the UK to study at the University of Sussex.

The two friends were held in Guangzhou number one detention centre, where advocates claim they were subjected to secret interrogations, torture and ill treatment. The US-based NGO, Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), said police also interrogated as many as 70 of their friends, some of whom were forced to leave Guangzhou.

Huang and Wang were charged with inciting subversion of state power through the regular gatherings they organised for like-minded progressives, to discuss issues such as feminism, LGBTQ+ rights and labour issues. They were accused of publishing distorted and inflammatory articles to attack the government, smearing Chinese authorities at a foreign virtual media conference, and organising online courses that incite dissatisfaction with the country, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In a December 2021 video posted to X, Wang’s father said he had “no idea what mistakes he has made”.

“My son is not a bad guy. He was enthusiastic about public welfare after graduation. He did nothing wrong. His arrest is such a serious shock to me.” He asked that the authorities allow his family to hire a lawyer and to meet Wang, and hoped the case would be handled according to law.

Huang had previously been detained by authorities in 2019, after reporting on the Hong Kong protests. She was released in early 2020, and prevented from taking up a place on a postgraduate programme at the University of Hong Kong.

In June 2021, the British Foreign Office awarded Huang a Chevening scholarship, through a scheme that supports “outstanding emerging leaders from all over the world”. Huang was due to start her master’s degree at the University of Sussex a few months later.

On Friday, Amnesty International said Huang and Wang had been jailed “solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression”, and called for their release.

“These convictions will prolong their deeply unjust detention and have a further chilling effect on human rights and social advocacy in a country where activists face increasing state crackdowns,” said the NGO’s China director, Sarah Brooks.

“In reality, they have committed no actual crime. Instead, the Chinese government has fabricated excuses to deem their work a threat, and to target them for educating themselves and others about social justice issues such as women’s dignity and workers’ rights.”

With Reuters



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