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China’s #MeToo Activist on Trial: A Deep Dive into Huang Xueqin’s Case

Ashley Waithira



Let’s turn our attention to the notable trial of Huang Xueqin, a trailblazer in China’s #MeToo movement. She’s standing trial alongside labor activist Jianbing, with both finding themselves on the wrong side of “inciting subversion of state power” charges. Their arrests and the following court proceedings have set off alarm bells worldwide. It raises questions about the way China handles activists and how it’s putting a lid on personal freedoms.

Details of the Arrest

  • Date: The duo were arrested on September 19, 2021, in Guangzhou, a southern city in China.
  • Charges: Both are accused of “inciting subversion of state power”, a charge often used against dissidents in China, carrying a maximum prison term of five years, but can be escalated if the accused is deemed a “ringleader” or commits “serious crimes”.
  • Potential Context: The day before Huang’s arrest, she was scheduled to travel to Britain to start her master’s degree at the University of Sussex, funded by a British government scholarship.

The Trial

  • Location: The proceedings were held in the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court.
  • Happenings Globally: A group of diplomats from not one, or two, but seven Western nations including countries such as America, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and even the Netherlands tried their level best to get a ringside view of the trial, yet they were given the cold shoulder.
  • Official Statement: There was this bloke speaking on behalf of the British Foreign Office. He made it clear that, in no uncertain terms, “No one ought to face jail time for merely exercising their basic rights”. And trust me, he didn’t mince words when expressing these underlying issues to the Chinese authorities.

Concerns Over Fair Trial

Human rights advocates and other stakeholders have expressed concerns over the potential for a fair trial in China, given:

  • High Conviction Rates: China has a conviction rate exceeding 99.9%.
  • Lack of Legal Representation: Huang has been denied access to her chosen lawyer for the two years she’s been in detention.
  • Alleged Mistreatment: During their detention, both activists reportedly endured prolonged interrogations, with Huang being awakened at night. Furthermore, Huang experienced significant weight loss, ceased menstruating for several months, and suffered from other health issues.

Background on the Activists

  • Huang Xueqin: A journalist who covered Chinese #MeToo allegations and the 2019 Hong Kong anti-government protests. She was instrumental in amplifying a graduate student’s voice accusing her Ph.D. supervisor of unwanted advances, marking China’s first #MeToo case. A 2018 survey conducted by Huang revealed that 84% of 416 female journalists had experienced workplace sexual harassment.
  • Wang Jianbing: Details are lesser known, but the arrests might be linked to weekly gatherings at Wang’s apartment, believed to discuss various social issues.

Repercussions & Broader Context

Following their arrest, over 70 friends and supporters were summoned for police questioning. Some were allegedly forced into signing fabricated testimonies against Huang and Wang. The gatherings held by the activists, viewed by some as innocent and supportive meet-ups, are believed to be the foundation for the sedition charges.

William Nee from Chinese Human Rights Defenders believes the Chinese government’s objective might be the dismantling of informal friendships among civil society activists in Guangzhou.

Responses & Public Perception

  • Media Coverage: Multiple media outlets, including CNN, have covered the story, but have faced challenges in obtaining responses from Chinese authorities.
  • Public Sentiment: Friends and acquaintances of Huang and Wang, previously part of a supportive community discussing a range of social issues, feel suppressed and isolated post the arrests.
  • International Organizations: Amnesty International commented on the issue, terming Huang and Wang as a part of the “courageous wave of younger Chinese activists”. Sarah Brooks, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for China, claimed the charges are purely motivated to silence critical voices.


Huang Xueqin’s trial, alongside Wang Jianbing, showcases the broader challenges activists face in China, with concerns over the stifling of voices, mistreatment of detainees, and the country’s judicial system. This case stands as a testament to the resilience of individuals standing up for social justice and the increasing international scrutiny on China’s human rights practices and underscores the necessity for international dialogue and cooperation in safeguarding fundamental freedoms and rights.

Ashley is a creative and adventurous Journalism graduate with a vibrant personality. Her love for exploring new places fuels her passion for travelling, allowing her to uncover captivating stories and diverse cultures. With a kind and fun-loving nature, she radiates positivity and enjoys connecting with people from all walks of life. Ashley's belief in a supreme being serves as a moral compass, guiding her to always strive for what is right and just. In her spare time, she immerses herself in the pages of books, seeking inspiration and expanding her knowledge. Ashley's zest for life and unwavering dedication to her values make her remarkable.