Politics

US calls for immediate release of Chinese rights activists held by Beijing


The verdict provided to Associated Press stated that Huang would also face a fine of 100,000 yuan (US$14,000), underscoring the ruling Communist Party’s intolerance of any activism outside its control in a system whose upper echelons are dominated by men.

Chinese labour activist Wang Jianbing in April 2021. Photo: Free Huang Xueqin & Wang Jianbing via AP

China’s #MeToo movement flourished briefly before being snuffed out by the government. China often silences activists by holding them incommunicado for a long time and then sentencing them to prison.

Huang’s release date was listed as September 18, 2026, accounting for her earlier detention. Co-defendant Wang was sentenced to three years and six months on the same charge. Wang is more known for his labour rights activity but also helped women report sexual harassment.

Huang and Wang’s cases appear to have become intertwined as part of the most recent wave of a general crackdown on rights advocates, a trend that predates the #MeToo movement and includes previous incidents such as the 2015 detentions of women distributing pamphlets against sexual harassment on public transport.

Working as a freelance journalist, Huang helped spark China’s first #MeToo case in 2018 when she publicised allegations of sexual harassment made by a graduate student against her PhD supervisor at one of China’s most prestigious universities.

Friends say that Huang and Wang disappeared on September 19, 2021, a day before Huang was scheduled to fly to the United Kingdom to start a master’s degree programme on gender violence and conflict at the University of Sussex. They went on trial in September 2023.

These convictions will prolong their deeply unjust detention and have a further chilling effect on human rights and social advocacy

Sarah Brooks, Amnesty International’s China director

The International Women’s Media Foundation earlier gave Huang its Wallis Annenberg Justice for Women Journalists Award.

Supporters of Huang and Wang created a GitHub webpage to post case updates and share their thoughts. China is routinely listed by monitoring groups as among the top imprisoning nations of journalists.

Amnesty International’s China Director Sarah Brooks issued a statement condemning Huang’s conviction as an attack on women’s advocacy in the People’s Republic of China, which has long promoted the concept that “women hold up half the sky”, but whose institutions remain dominated by men.

“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,” Brooks said in an emailed statement.

“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.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press



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