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China #MeToo activist Huang sentenced to five years

June 14, 2024

Chinese activists Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing have been found guilty of "inciting subversion of state power" by a court in Guangzhou.

Sophia Huang Xueqin
Huang Xueqin was arrested in 2021Image: Thomas Yau/newscom/picture alliance

A court in China sentenced prominent #MeToo activist Huang Xueqin to five years in prison, convicting her of state subversion, according to a group campaigning for her release and a copy of the court verdict.

Labor rights activist Wang Jianbing, who was also on trial with Huang, was sentenced to three years and six months by the Guangdong Intermediate People's Court.

Huang, an independent journalist, reportedly plans to appeal her sentence. It is not clear whether Wang would also appeal his sentence.

"[The sentence] was longer than we expected," a spokesperson for the campaign group Free Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing said on the condition of anonymity.

"I don't think it should have been this severe, and it is completely unnecessary. We support Huang Xueqin's intention to appeal," he told Reuters news agency.

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Why were Huang and Wang arrested?

Supporters lost contact with the two activists in September 2021, and they were formally arrested a month later.

The two were then detained in Guangzhou province, and their closed-door trial did not begin until 2023.

Huang, who covered the #MeToo allegations and the 2019 Hong Kong anti-government protests, was also arrested in 2019.

Both Huang and Wang faced charges of sedition following gatherings they held for Chinese youth where they exchanged views on social issues.

Throughout their detention and trial, both maintained their innocence.

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The Chinese government often uses the charge of "inciting subversion of state power" against dissidents. The charge carries a maximum prison term of five years but can be extended based on the severity of acts.

'Chilling effect on human rights'

"This is a denial and obliteration of the value of social justice as well as a denial of moderate voices in civil society. This is a very bad sign," said a person from the campaign group to free the two activists.

Envoys from the United States, Denmark, France, Germany, New Zealand, and the UK tried to attend the court proceedings but were not allowed to enter, two diplomats, who were not authorized to speak to media, told Reuters news agency.

"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," Amnesty International's China Director Sarah Brooks said in a statement.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian responded to Huang and Wang's conviction saying, "China firmly opposes any country or organisation challenging China's judicial sovereignty."

He said China is a country based on the rule of law and anyone who breaks the law would be punished.

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mfi/sms (Reuters, dpa, AFP)