President Xi Jinping, Rwanda
President Xi Jinping of China. Photo credit: Paul Kagame / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Amnesty International on Friday sharply criticized the conviction of two Chinese activists who received lengthy prison sentences for “inciting subversion of state power.”

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China’s biggest advantage in its efforts to control its population and dominate the world might just be that not enough people are paying attention. However, for those who are looking a bit more closely, the regime in Beijing is demonstrating almost every single day just how oppressive it is.

The latest example came on Friday, when journalist and #MeToo activist Sophia Huang Xueqin was sentenced to five years in prison, and labor activist Wang Jianbing received a prison term of three years and six months for “inciting subversion of state power.”

In China, that’s what it is called when you speak your mind on a topic that is taboo for the regime in Beijing.

The human rights organization Amnesty International sharply criticized the sentences for Huang, who worked on campaigns to help victims of sexual assault and harassment, and Wang, who provided legal support for people with disabilities and workers with occupational diseases.

“In reality, they have committed no actual crime,” said Sarah Brooks, the director of Amnesty International China. “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.”

The two activists had been arrested all the way back in September of 2021, which means they have now been detained for nearly 1,000 days.

China has a long history of prosecuting people who do not tow the party line, such as lawyers, journalists, activists, and others, on dubious charges like “inciting subversion of state power.”

“These malicious and totally groundless convictions 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 Brooks, adding that today’s verdicts will “have a further chilling effect on human rights and social advocacy in a country where activists face increasing state crackdowns.”

While the convictions have received some limited coverage, the group “Free Huang Xueqin & Wang Jianbing” lamented that it primarily focused on the female journalist and not the male activist.

“We have observed that most media coverage and statements predominantly focus on Huang Xueqin, while Wang Jianbing, the low-profile labor activist involved in the same case, is often only briefly mentioned or overlooked entirely,” the group stated, noting that Wang hosted weekly meetings at his apartment.

A United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined two years ago that Wang was being arbitrarily detained and subject to “violence and abuse.”

Huang announced that she would appeal the verdict.


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