U.S. calls for release of Chinese activists following harsh sentences

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Sophia Huang

18th June 2024 – (Washington) The United States has strongly condemned the sentencing of two prominent Chinese activists, women’s rights advocate Sophia Huang Xueqin and labour rights activist Wang Jianbing, calling for their immediate release. The U.S. State Department, represented by spokesperson Matthew Miller, criticised the punishment as part of China’s broader strategy to suppress civil society.

Sophia Huang Xueqin was handed a five-year imprisonment term for charges of incitement to subvert state authority. This sentence comes nearly three years after her initial detention alongside Wang Jianbing. In addition to her prison term, Huang has been fined 100,000 yuan, a move that highlights the Chinese government’s stringent control over dissent. Wang Jianbing received a sentence of three years and six months on similar charges.

The pair’s legal troubles began in earnest when they were detained on 19th September, 2021, just a day before Huang was due to leave for the U.K. to begin a master’s programme at the University of Sussex. Their trial, which took place nearly two years later, has drawn international attention and criticism.

Huang, a freelance journalist, played a pivotal role in initiating China’s #MeToo movement in 2018 by publicising a case of sexual harassment at a top Chinese university. Wang, although primarily focused on labour rights, has also supported women in their fight against sexual harassment.

These sentences underscore the ongoing crackdown on activists in China, a pattern that has seen numerous individuals detained and silenced, particularly those involved in the #MeToo movement and other social justice initiatives. This tightening grip on civil liberties has alarmed human rights organizations worldwide.

Amnesty International’s China Director, Sarah Brooks, has expressed deep concern over the convictions, noting their implications for human rights and social advocacy within China. According to Brooks, these actions by the Chinese government are part of a larger strategy to quash any form of dissent or advocacy under the guise of maintaining state security.