An independent MeToo journalist and a labour activist in China, who have been detained for over two years, are scheduled to appear in a ‘secret’ trial on Friday amid Beijing’s intensifying crackdown on the remaining aspects of the Chinese civil society, according to a report by CNN.
MeToo activist Huang Xueqin and labour rights activist Wang Jiangbing were detained by authorities in Guangzhou city in September 2021 on charges of inciting subversion of state power. According to human rights advocates, they are unlikely to receive a fair trial in a party-controlled judicial system.
One of Huang’s close friends said that she has lost a significant amount of weight in detainment and was also suffering from serious deficiencies and prolonged back pain. She and Wang were detained a day before Huang was scheduled to fly to the US to start her master’s degree.
“Huang has not seen a lawyer of her choice in two years of detention. They were both reportedly subjected to prolonged interrogations and police frequently would wake Huang up in the middle of the night and start interrogations,” said William Nee, a research and advocacy coordinator at Chinese Human Rights Defenders.
Huang’s role in China’s MeToo movement
Analysts say that Chinese governments are aiming to disband “informal friendships” and network within the civil society of the government. This obviously includes Huang, who helped bring the first MeToo case in China in 2018 by helping amplify the voice of a student accusing her PhD supervisor of sexual harassment.
Since then, Huang has become a pivotal figure in sparking the movement. She has also spoken about her own experiences of sexual harassment as a young intern and further mentioned that she was groped and kissed by a senior male reporter.
She also found that 84% of the 416 female journalists she surveyed in 2018 have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. “There are so few people prosecuted because there are only so few victims who report,” she told CNN in 2018.
Many activists have been detained and prosecuted by Chinese authorities on the basis of perceived political threat to the communist regime controlled by President Xi Jinping.
Chinese communities being suppressed and silenced
Since the duo were detained by Chinese authorities, over 70 of their friends and supporters have been summoned for questioning. Some of them were even forced to sign fabricated testimonies claiming that they had organuised political gatherings to criticise the government.
However, Huang’s friend told CNN that the participants were a “loose group of friends” who were simply concerned about public affairs such as LGBTQ, labour rights and environmental protection. “The crackdown by authorities turned us into isolated atoms – it is difficult for everyone to band together again. The entire community is suppressed and silenced,” he said.