Chinese #MeToo journalist Sophia Huang Xueqin jailed for five years

Sophia Huang Xueqin
Chinese journalist Sophia Huang Xueqin holds up a #METOO sign for a photo in Singapore (Image: #FreeXueBing via AP)

A prominent female #MeToo activist in China has been handed a five-year jail sentence for “subversion against the state”.

Sophia Huang Xueqin was convicted and sentenced on Friday, nearly 10 months after she went on trial.

Labour activist Wang Jianbing, who stood trial with Ms Huang, was sentenced to three years and six months in prison.

Ms Huang, 36, had been one of the most prominent voices in China’s #MeToo space, reporting ground-breaking stories about sexual abuse victims.

She had also spoken out about the misogyny and sexism she faced in Chinese newsrooms.

Chinese authorities have not made it clear how the two stood accused of subversion. The trial was a closed-door hearing.

But their supporters say they were detained because they hosted regular meetings and forums for young people to discuss social issues.

Ms Huang had been on her way to take up a UK-government sponsored masters scholarship at the University of Sussex when she was detained at the airport in the city of Guangzhou in 2021.

Mr Wang, 40, was with her at that time.

Supporters say both have endured months of solitary confinement during their pre-detention custody, which lasted for nearly 1,000 days. Their trial only began in September 2023.

A BBC Eye investigation in 2022 found that both were being held in solitary confinement, detained in secret locations known as ‘black jails’.

In 2021, amid Covid lockdowns and growing public anger, Chinese authorities launched a crackdown on several activists working across different fields.

“Their efforts and dedication to labour, women’s rights, and the broader civil society won’t be negated by this unjust trial, nor will society forget their contributions,” said the campaign group Free Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing.

“On the contrary, as oppression persists and injustice grows, more activists like them will continue to rise.”

Amnesty International on Friday called the convictions “malicious and totally groundless”.

“[They] show just how terrified the Chinese government is of the emerging wave of activists who dare to speak out to protect the rights of others,” said Amnesty International’s China Director Sarah Brooks.

“#MeToo activism has empowered survivors of sexual violence around the world, but in this case, the Chinese authorities have sought to do the exact opposite by stamping it out.”

It is unclear if the time already served by the pair will go towards reducing their sentence.

Public reaction to Ms Huang’s trial has previously been mixed – with some online decrying the case while others critical of the feminist movement welcomed it.

Many advocates for gender rights and social causes in China choose to remain anonymous online.

Often they have been accused of being “agents of hostile western forces” by state media and nationalists on the internet.


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