Chinese #MeToo activist sentenced to 5 years in prison: supporters group


SHANGHAI: Chinese journalist and #Metoo activist Sophia Huang Xueqin (pic) was sentenced to five years in prison on Friday (June 14) on charges of "inciting subversion of state power" after she became a symbol of the country's stalled feminist movement.

She was sentenced alongside labour activist Wang Jianbing, who was handed three years and six months, a group of their supporters said on social media platform X.

Huang wrote on social media about her experience of workplace sexual harassment as a young journalist at a Chinese news agency, in the wake of the global #MeToo movement.

With Wang, she was involved in running a regular gathering in the southern city of Guangzhou, a member of the supporters' group told AFP last year, before they were both detained in 2021.

On Friday, the court said the meetings, which took place from November 2020, "incited participants' dissatisfaction with Chinese state power under the pretext of discussing social issues", according to the "Free Huang XueQin & Wang JianBing" group.

Their trial took place in 2023 behind closed doors, with international rights groups raising concerns over the pair's health during their detention.

On Friday, supporters posted pictures they said showed barriers erected around Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court, where the sentencing took place, with a heavy police presence.

Attempts to contact the court were unsuccessful, and the sentencing is not currently available on China's national court document database.

But supporters said Huang was accused of "publishing distorted, provocative articles and speeches attacking the national government on social media", and "gathering overseas organisers to participate in online training for 'non-violent actions'".

Huang had been previously held by authorities, after returning from reporting on Hong Kong's enormous pro-democracy protests in 2019.

She had been due to start studying in the United Kingdom when she was detained again in 2021.

Wang, described as a "low-profile veteran" labour activist by friends, was accused on Friday of posting "untrue articles and speeches attacking China's political system and government".

He had also joined "(subversive) overseas online groups" including one commemorating the deadly Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989, the court was quoted as saying.

Amnesty International's China director Sarah Brooks blasted the sentences as "malicious and totally groundless convictions".

"Sophia Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing have been jailed solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and they must be immediately and unconditionally released," Brooks said.

Earlier on Friday, the Committee to Protect Journalists called for Huang's "unconditional and immediate release and for the charges against her to be dropped".

Beijing's foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian defended the Chinese judicial system on Friday when asked about the sentencing, saying China "guarantees the legitimate rights of every citizen in accordance with the law".

"At the same time, anyone who breaks the law will receive legal punishment," Lin said, without confirming the details of the sentences. - AFP

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China , #Metoo , activist , Sophia Huang , Xueqin

   

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