Home News Chinese activist who spoke out for #MeToo victims found guilty

Chinese activist who spoke out for #MeToo victims found guilty

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A southern Chinese court ruled on Friday that famous A feminist journalist was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of endangering state security, in Beijing’s latest crackdown on civil society. A labor activist was also sentenced to three years and six months on the same charge.

The activities that led to the arrest and conviction of Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing included organizing discussions, providing support to other activists, and receiving training overseas. The subversion charges and sentences handed down by the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court were confirmed by Reporters Without Borders and Committee to Protect Journalists.

Experts say the legal action against Ms Huang and Mr Wang is harsh even by Chinese standards and shows that space for independent discussion of social issues is shrinking.

“We’ve seen China adopt an almost zero-tolerance approach to even the most modest civil society activities,” said Thomas Kellogg, executive director of the Asia Law Center at Georgetown University. “This case is an example of that.”

Ms. Huang, 35, was an independent journalist who became a well-known spokesperson for China’s #MeToo movement, helping women report cases of sexual harassment. She later went to Hong Kong to write about the anti-government protests there. Mr. Wang, 40, has long campaigned for workers and people with disabilities. He also helps #MeToo victims speak out.

Ms. Huang and Mr. Wang were arrested in 2021 and spent two years in pre-trial detention. Judgment It lasted one day last September.

Although China’s Criminal Procedure Law stipulates that the maximum waiting period is three months, which can be extended by three months in special circumstances, no judgment has been made after nine months.

Experts say the charge – “inciting subversion of state power” – is a national security crime that carries harsher penalties than other charges typically levelled against activists, and shows that authorities are moving hard to clamp down on discussion of issues such as women’s and workers’ rights. More than a decade ago, forums for discussing these topics were tolerated and even encouraged, said Yaqiu Wang, director of Hong Kong, China and Taiwan research at Freedom House, a Washington-based nonprofit.

“Anything the government doesn’t like will be framed as a challenge to the Communist Party and an accusation of national security,” Ms. Wang said.

Details of the case have not been made public. But many legal documents related to the case have been released GitHub Pages The group is run by supporters and was confirmed by Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a coalition of human rights groups. Reached by phone on Friday, a spokeswoman for the Guangzhou Intermediate Court declined to provide any information.

According to an indictment shared by supporters, the charges against the two men were based on a number of actions, including hosting social gatherings and attending overseas online courses on “nonviolent movements.” The gatherings typically focused on issues such as For example, the #MeToo movement, gay rights and workers’ working conditions, friends of the defendants said.

Huang became a central figure in China’s #MeToo movement in early 2018 when she set up an online platform for people to post their experiences of sexual harassment. She also organized investigations that found sexual harassment was widespread and went unpunished, both at universities and in the workplace.

The movement has since been driven underground as state censors have moved to suppress online discussion and dampen public support. The party has accused feminists of helping what it calls “foreign hostile forces,” and officials have warned some activists they would be considered traitors if they speak out.

Wang is dedicated to providing education and legal support to workers with occupational diseases and physical disabilities. Recently, he hosted discussions for activists to share their struggles and support each other.

Since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, the Communist Party has been punishing activists, lawyers, intellectuals and even tycoons who call for free speech. Political rights. Dozens of activists face lengthy pretrial detention and harsh prison sentences.

But Friday’s ruling shows that people’s concept of what constitutes a threat to public order is expanding.

“In the past, people accused of inciting subversion of state power usually talked about democracy or the rule of law,” said Ms. Wang of Freedom House. “Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing were very focused on helping victims and cultivating marginalized people. They didn’t talk about politics.”

The day before Ms. Huang was scheduled to leave China for the UK to study for a master’s degree in gender studies, authorities arrested the two at Mr. Wang’s home in Guangzhou. According to Chinese human rights defenders, the two were held for 47 days without a lawyer before a formal arrest notice was issued to family and friends.

According to Chinese human rights defenders, dozens of friends of Mr Wang and Ms Huang were interrogated after their arrest, and many were forced to sign testimonies against them.

Soon after Mr Wang was taken away, his father recorded a video petitioning the authorities.

“My son is not a bad person,” Wang Zhixue’s father said in the video, which was posted online by supporters of Wang and Huang Zhixue. “He has contributed so much to society through charity. What harm can he bring to society?”

In late 2019, Ms. Huang was detained by Guangzhou police on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a less serious crime that the government has used in the past to silence activists like her.

She was held for three months. “I am Xueqin, and I am back,” she wrote in a message to a friend after her release in 2020. “One second of darkness will not make anyone blind.”

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