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01 Apr 2022

China continues crackdown on feminist movement

March 19 marked six months of arbitrary detention for #MeToo activist and independent journalist Huang Xueqin and labor rights advocate Wang Jianbing, following their initial enforced disappearance.

On September 19, 2021, the Guangzhou police forcibly took Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing on suspicion of "inciting subversion of state power" over a weekly friends gathering at Wang Jianbing’s house deemed “subversive to state power”. They were immediately placed under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) and it was not until early November 2021 that their family members received formal "arrest notices" issued by the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau.

Despite such notices stating they would be detained in Guangzhou, up until today no family member or lawyer has been able to effectively meet or talk to them, leaving their whereabouts effectively unknown and constituting an incommunicado detention.

On April 1, the Free Xueqin & Jianbing 释放雪饼 campaign announced they had been transferred to Guangzhou City Procuratorate for review and prosecution. Citing national security grounds, their lawyers have still not been granted access to meet them.

Since their arrest, about 70 of Xueqin’s friends and fellow feminists have been continuously summoned, intimidated and interrogated by the police, and forced to sign false confessions alleging the two of having partaken in so-called training activities to “subvert state power”.

While Peng Shuai’s disappearance from public view and coerced statements following her accusations of sexual abuse by Zhang Gaoli have rightfully raised concern across the globe, the continuous crackdown on rights activists and feminists within the People’s Republic of China remains a little-known issue. We therefore publish a summary overview of their case on the basis of a translation of the appeal made by the Free Xueqin & Jianbing 释放雪饼 campaign on March 20, 2022.


Arrest and disappearance

Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing were both taken on September 19, 2021, one day before Xueqin was expected to travel to the UK under a scholarship at the University of Sussex with the UK Chevening Committee. They were initially disappeared into a regime favorite for human rights defenders: Residential Surveillance at a Designated.

Only through the continuous police summons and questioning of fellow activists did Xuebing's family and friends learn about the police's charges and intentions against the two, as despite legal provisions no detention notice was sent until October 27, 2021, when the two were officially charged with “inciting subversion of state power” and said to be detained at the Guangzhou No. 1 Detention Center.

However, at the end of January 2021, it was learned that Huang Xueqin was actually being detained in the Guangzhou No. 2 Detention Center, and whether Wang Jianbing was actually being detained in the No. 1 Detention Center remains unknown. Xueqin's family and friends have tried several times over the past six months to send money to Xueqin and Jianbing in the detention center, but to no avail. This strongly suggests that the place of their detention may not match the location provided or that they were detained under pseudonyms as denounced in our report Access Denied – China’s Vanishing Suspects. Family, friends and lawyers have no way of knowing the actual detention location and physical health of the two of them.

While Xueqin and Jianbing both have lawyers appointed by their families, none of them have been able to meet with their clients. Since October 2021, Jianbing’s lawyer Xiao Yunyang has repeatedly submitted applications to the Guangzhou police for interviews and bail pending trial applications, all of which have been rejected on the grounds of “national security”. More recently, Xueqin's lawyer's application for a meeting in March 2022 was also rejected. This increasing practice has been amply documented in our report China’s Legal Blockade.

Meanwhile, about 70 of Xueqin’s friends have been continuously summoned by the police for interrogation. Since her arrest, the Guangzhou police in conjunction with public security departments across the country, have continued to issue local or cross-regional subpoenas for interrogations. Without respect for any legal formalities, the Guangzhou police interrogated and intimidated them for up to 24 hours, and forcibly searched and copied their electronic equipment. The police forced and threatened some of Xueqin’s friends to sign false confessions fabricated by the police, asking them to allege that the two had participated in so-called training activities of a “subverting state power” and defining the gathering at Jianbing’s home as a political criticism of the government. reunion. Over the past six months, the police have relentlessly tried to collect illegal evidence to accuse Xueqin in this way.


A long history of repression

Since 2015, the Chinese government has accelerated its crackdown on civil society, with repressive policies and charges against civil organizations and activists concerned with women's and labor rights. The precise aim of large-scale political arrests such as the "Feminist Five" case in 2015, the "709" crackdown on human rights lawyer, or the "123" suppression of labor activists was to gradually disintegrate civil society networks and instill widespread fear in the community.  

It was in this depressing atmosphere that Xueqin and Jianbing convened a party at his home, as to accompany and encourage those feeling lost in the increasingly oppressive environment. However, this weekly gathering is now regarded by the government as a major so-called "national security" threat, leading to the charges of  "inciting subversion of state power" against the two.

After the complete crackdown and shutdown of organized civil society, it is evident the government seeks to further dismantle the remaining network of actors, all while shifting the state apparatus’ attention to more low-profile and unknown actors, further adding to the atmosphere of panic in what little of the community has managed to survive.

Furthermore, as the case of Peng Shuai and the suppression of the Me Too movement demonstrate, women’s rights movements are regarded and treated as an existential threat to the survival of the CCP and routinely accused of colluding with foreign forces. In fact, on April 1st, a WeChat account linked to CCP mouthpiece the Global Times published a smear piece against other Chinese feminist activists and Safeguard Defenders’ Director Peter Dahlin.


An appeal by friends

It has been six months since we lost contact with Xueqin. We cannot imagine the torture and humiliation she is going through. Friends and family have been deeply worried about her physical and mental health. But we believe that Xueqin must hold on to the belief that being a journalist is not a sin, participating in #MeToo is not a sin, supporting workers is not a sin, and paying attention to social justice should never be a sin!


As friends:

  • We strongly condemn the arbitrary arrest and charges against Xueqin by the Guangzhou police and the government. We demand that the government immediately discloses the place of detention,  information on the physical and mental health of the two, allows their lawyers to meet, and releases Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing unconditionally!
  • We are deeply disappointed by the continued silence by the UK Chevening Committee and the University of Sussex during the enforced disappearance and arbitrary arrest of its affiliated scholar/student Xueqin Huang. We call on the Chevening Scholarship Committee and university officials to actively respond to and condemn the Chinese government's egregious repression of human rights defenders.
  • We are grateful to international non-profit organizations, human rights organizations, social media and international civil society for their solidarity and help to Xueqin, as well as everyone's continued attention to the human rights situation in China. We call on more international groups to continue to pay attention to and support the deeply suppressed Chinese human rights defenders.
  • We hope all our friends and partners in civil society who have been affected by this crackdown will remain strong. Political repression makes us deeply fearful, and only the unity and company of each other can keep us strong and free. This is what Xueqin has been working on.


Friends of Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing

March 20, 2022