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U.S. State Department condemns China's sentencing of 2 activists

By Allen Cone

June 17 (UPI) -- The State Department on Monday condemned the sentencing by China of two activists for "inciting subversion of state power."

On Friday, Sophia Huang Xueqin, a 35-year-old #MeToo journalist and women's rights activist, was sentenced to five years in prison, and Wang Jianbing, 40, a labor rights activist, to three years and six months of imprisonment after a lengthy pre-trial detention and a secret trial closed to journalists or the public.

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The State Department said in a statement these sentences "demonstrate the PRC's [People's Republic of China] continued efforts to intimidate and silence civil society."

The State Department said they should not be in prison.

"We urge the PRC to immediately release Huang and Wang, as well as other individuals unjustly detained for exercising their fundamental freedoms," the State Department said. "We continue to call on the PRC to live up to its international commitments and to respect the human rights of all persons, including freedom of expression and fair trial guarantees. We also urge the PRC to accept the many recommendations made this year during the PRC's Universal Periodic Review of its human rights record."

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Huang described the misogyny and sexism she endured in a state-run newsroom and specialized in breaking stories about sexual abuse survivors in China. She had been in custody since 2021 when she was arrested with Wang at a Guangzhou airport.

The trials began in September 2023. Chinese officials accused Huang of inciting "participants' dissatisfaction with Chinese state power under the pretext of discussing social issues."

Sarah Brooks, who is Amnesty International's China director, said the intimidation of the activists has been extended to family and friends, who have been questioned by local authorities and had their homes searched and electronic devices taken away from them.

"In reality, [Huang and Wang] have committed no actual crime," Brooks said. "Instead, the Chinese government has fabricated excuses to deem their work a threat, and to target them for educating themselves and others about social justice issues such as women's dignity and workers' rights."

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