BEIJING: A leading activist in China’s #MeToo movement went on trial for subversion on Friday, according to several diplomats and a spokesman for a campaign group calling for her release.
Journalist and feminist activist Huang Xueqin was put on trial on the charge of “inciting subversion of state power” along with labour activist Wang Jianbing at Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court, a spokesman for the campaign group Free Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing said, citing people with knowledge of the case.
Diplomats from seven Western countries including the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands attempted to attend the trial as observers, but they were not allowed into the building, according to five Beijing-based diplomats.
The pair were arrested on Sept 19, 2021 in the southern city of Guangzhou and later charged.
The charge “inciting subversion of state power” is frequently used by the Chinese government against dissidents and carries a maximum prison term of five years unless the suspect is considered a “ringleader” or to have committed “serious crimes”.
The day before her arrest, Huang had been scheduled to fly to Britain to begin a master’s degree at the University of Sussex on a British government-funded scholarship, the campaign group spokesman said. They declined to be named due to security concerns.
Calls to Huang’s lawyer and the Guangzhou court were not answered. Police in Guangzhou did not respond to a faxed request for comment. The British Foreign Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Huang, an independent journalist who covered Chinese #MeToo allegations and the 2019 Hong Kong anti-government protests, had been detained by Chinese police for three months in late 2019.
The campaign group spokesman said the charges of sedition against her and Wang were based on the gatherings the two activists often held for Chinese youth during which they discussed social issues.
The spokesman said the activists were put in solitary confinement for several months, and subjected to torture. The police did not respond to a faxed request to comment on the allegations made by the campaign spokesman.
“Their families are extremely worried about them. They are constantly visited and threatened by police, so they are scared to speak out or make contact with people overseas,” the spokesman added.