State Department Urges China to Release 2 Activists, Condemns ‘Unjust Sentencing’

Frank Fang
By Frank Fang
June 19, 2024China News

The U.S. State Department on June 17 called on the Chinese regime to immediately release two Chinese activists, saying that they have been wrongfully sentenced.

“The United States condemns the unjust sentencing of independent journalist and women’s rights activist Huang Xueqin (Sophia Huang) as well as labor rights activist Wang Jianbing,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

“These sentences demonstrate the PRC’s continued efforts to intimidate and silence civil society,” Mr. Miller added, referring to China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China.

Mr. Miller noted that the pair were subjected to “a lengthy pre-trial detention and a secret trial closed to journalists or the public.”

Ms. Huang, 35, a leading Chinese #MeToo activist and independent journalist, was sentenced to five years in prison by a Guangzhou court in southern China on June 14. Mr. Wang, 40, who stood trial with Ms. Huang, was sentenced to three years and six months.

They were found guilty of “inciting subversion of state power,” a charge the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) often uses to silence dissidents and critics of the regime.

“We urge the PRC to immediately release Huang and Wang, as well as other individuals unjustly detained for exercising their fundamental freedoms,” Mr. Miller 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.”

Ms. Huang said last week that she planned to appeal, according to the campaign group Free Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing. Mr. Wang said he would consult his lawyer before deciding on whether to appeal his sentence.

A document shared by the group showed that the court also confiscated 100,000 yuan (about $13,800) in assets from Ms. Huang and 50,000 yuan (about $6,900) from Mr. Wang.

There was a heavy security presence around the court on Friday, according to the group.

The pair were arrested on Sept. 19, 2021. As of June 15, the day after the court’s decision, they had spent 1,000 days in detention.

Before her arrest, Ms. Huang was due to fly to the UK from China on Sept. 20, 2021, to begin her master’s degree studies at the University of Sussex. She was awarded a scholarship under the British government’s Chevening Scholarships program.

Ms. Huang began reporting on #MeToo cases in 2016, according to the Global Investigative Journalism Network.

On June 9, 2019, she participated in an anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, along with over 1 million people, and shared her experience online.

Police in Guangzhou detained her in October 2019 for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a common charge the CCP uses to silence critics. She was released on bail in January 2020.

Before his arrest in 2021, Mr. Wang had provided legal support for workers with occupational diseases and people living with disabilities. He also supported the #MeToo movement in China.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), chair and co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, also called on the Chinese regime to release Ms. Huang and Mr. Wang, saying that they had simply been “holding private gatherings with other activists.”

“They should be released, and we condemn the PRC’s criminalization of free speech and association,” the two lawmakers wrote on social media platform X on June 14.

Amnesty International’s China director, Sarah Brooks, issued a statement on June 14 saying that neither Ms. Huang nor Mr. Wang committed a crime.

“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,” Ms. Brooks said. “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.

“Sophia Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing have been jailed solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and they must be immediately and unconditionally released.”

From The Epoch Times