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Chinese activist for #MeToo movement sentenced to five-year imprisonment for charges of subversion

Sophia Huang Xueqin, a prominent figure in the #MeToo movement and journalism, has been sentenced to five years in prison by a southern Chinese court for “inciting subversion of state power.”

Alongside her, labor activist Wang Jianbing received a three-year-and-six-month sentence on the same charge at the Guangzhou Intermediate Court. Huang, aged 35, expressed her intention to appeal, while Wang, aged 40, did not confirm his plans regarding appeal.

The sentence, longer than anticipated, prompted support for Huang Xueqin’s appeal, according to a spokesperson for the Free Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing group, who chose to remain anonymous for safety concerns. Huang and Wang were actively involved in various #MeToo campaigns in China, providing aid to survivors of sexual assault and harassment, and supporting individuals with disabilities and workers with occupational diseases.

The trial, held behind closed doors last year, scrutinized their participation in weekly gatherings with fellow activists and online human rights education efforts.

Dozens of their associates underwent police interrogations, home searches, and confiscation of electronic devices prior to their arrest in September 2021, as reported by Amnesty International. Huang and Wang denied any wrongdoing, as affirmed by their supporters.

The heavy security presence surrounding the Guangzhou People’s Intermediate Court during the trial reflected the severity of the charge of “inciting subversion of state power,” a common accusation used by the Chinese government against dissidents.

Sarah Brooks, China Director of Amnesty International, condemned the convictions, viewing them as unjust detentions that would further intimidate human rights and social advocates.

Brooks called for the immediate release of Huang and Wang, echoing the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s stance that Wang’s detention was arbitrary. This group has repeatedly urged China to either repeal the crime of “inciting subversion” or align it with international standards.

Huang, who previously reported on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, faced a three-month detention by Chinese authorities in late 2019 on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”

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