China must release human rights defenders Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing now
The trial of Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing will begin on 22 September 2023, a few days after the second anniversary of their arrest.
We, the undersigned civil society groups, are deeply concerned about this case and call for the two activists’ immediate and unconditional release, as they have been detained for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. Pending their release, the Chinese authorities must respect and protect their rights in detention, including by providing regular, unrestricted access to their family and lawyers of their choice; prompt, adequate and necessary medical treatment; and ensuring that they are not subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.
On 19 September 2021, independent journalist and #MeToo activist Sophia Huang Xueqin and labour rights activist Wang Jianbing were detained by the police in Guangzhou, China. They were formally arrested on the charge of ‘inciting subversion of state power’ a month later. In January 2023, they were transferred to Guangzhou City No 1 Detention Centre awaiting trial at the court. Their continued detention is believed to be related to the weekly gatherings hosted by Wang Jianbing in the year prior to their detention, at which they discussed the challenges activists faced due to the shrinking space for civil society.
The health condition of Sophia Huang Xueqin is alarming as she is believed to have experienced significant weight loss and amenorrhea (no menstruation) for at least five months. Credible reports indicate that her sleep is often interrupted and that she has been subjected to interrogations in the middle of the night.
Sophia Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing should have not been detained for peacefully exercising their human rights. Ahead of of their trial, we call on the Chinese government to uphold its international human rights obligations. It must:
- Release Sophia Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing immediately and unconditionally;
- Pending their release, ensure that Sophia Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing have regular, unrestricted access to family and lawyers of their choice; prompt, adequate and necessary medical treatment; and are not subjected to torture and other ill-treatment;
- Stop harassing, arresting and threatening other human rights defenders who peacefully exercise their right to freedom of association or other human rights.
Sophia Huang Xueqin is a journalist who has been involved in several #MeToo campaigns to provide support and assistance to survivors of sexual assault and harassment. She was previously detained between October 2019 and January 2020 and charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” after writing about the 2019 mass protests in Hong Kong.
Labour activist Wang Jianbing (known to friends as “Pancake”) has provided legal support for people with disabilities and workers with occupational diseases. He is also a prominent supporter of the #MeToo movement in China.
Undersigned, in alphabetical order
Asia Citizen Future Association
Beijing Yirenping Center
China Against the Death Penalty
China Labour Bulletin
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Front Line Defenders
Georgetown Center for Asian Law
Hong Kong Labour Rights Monitor
Hong Kong Outlanders in Taiwan
Human Rights in China
Human Rights Now
Index on Censorship
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
International Tibet Network
Judicial Reform Foundation
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Taiwan Association for Human Rights
The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD)
The Rights Practice
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
World Uyghur Congress