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China #MeToo activist Huang sentenced to five years on subversion charges, supporters say

In World
June 14, 2024

By David Kirton and Laurie Chen

GUANGZHOU/BEIJING (Reuters) – Leading Chinese #MeToo activist Huang Xueqin was handed a five-year sentence after being found guilty on Friday of state subversion at a court in southern China, according to a group campaigning for her release and a copy of the court verdict.

Huang, a 35-year-old independent journalist, plans to appeal her sentence, supporters said. Labour activist Wang Jianbing, 40, who also stood trial with Huang, was sentenced to three years and six months. It was not immediately clear if he will appeal.

“(The sentence) was longer than we expected,” said a spokesperson for the campaign group Free Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing, asking to remain anonymous for safety concerns.

“I don’t think it should have been this severe, and it is completely unnecessary. So we support Huang Xueqin’s intention to appeal.”

Detained by Chinese authorities since September 2021, the pair were put on trial last year. The pair denied any wrongdoing during the closed-door trial, supporters have said.

The charges of sedition against the pair were based on the gatherings they often held for Chinese youth during which they discussed social issues.

“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. On the contrary, as oppression persists and injustice grows, more activists like them will continue to rise,” the campaign group, comprised mainly of overseas-based activists, said in a statement prior to the verdict.

There was a heavy security presence around Guangzhou People’s Intermediate Court on Friday morning, with police questioning bystanders.

The charge “inciting subversion of state power” is frequently used by the Chinese government against dissidents and carries a maximum prison term of five years but can be longer if the suspect is considered a ringleader or to have committed serious crimes.

The day before her arrest on Sept. 19, 2021, Huang had been scheduled to fly to Britain to begin a master’s degree at the University of Sussex on a British government-funded scholarship, the campaign group has said.

Huang, who covered Chinese #MeToo allegations and the 2019 Hong Kong anti-government protests, had been detained by Chinese police for three months in late 2019.

The two activists were put in solitary confinement for a period of months, supporters have previously said. Police in Guangzhou did not respond to a faxed request for comment.

(Reporting by Laurie Chen and David Kirton; Writing by Laurie Chen; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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