Statement on the One-year Enforced Disappearance and Arbitrary Detention of Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing, From Friends
On the afternoon of September 19, 2021, Human rights defenders Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing (“XueBing” for short) were forcibly arrested by the Guangzhou police on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”. Using COVID as an excuse, they were held for at least five months in solitary confinement, and subjected to secret interrogation, in conditions similar to those of ‘residential surveillance in a designated location’, or RSDL., a form of detention that seriously violates international human rights principles.
The weekly gatherings with friends that XueBing organized and participated in were characterized by the police as a threat to national security. Over the past year, the police have continually fabricated evidence based on these false accusations, coerced Huang into replacing her lawyer, interrogated and harassed dozens of civil activists. This further clamped down on China’s already weakened civil society.
As of today, Huang Xueqin, the #MeToo activist and independent journalist, and Wang Jianbing, the labor rights advocate, have been arbitrarily detained for over a year. They were formally arrested on October 27, 2021, and transferred to the Procuratorate Office on March 27, 2022. After being returned for supplementary investigation twice, the case was finally submitted to the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court for its first instance at mid-August 2022. The two are now being detained in the Guangzhou No. 3 Detention Center (Previously, XueBing were detailed at Guangzhou No.1 Detention Center, but since the beginning of July 2022, the Guangzhou No. 1 Detention Center was merged into the No. 3 Detention Center)
1.1 XueBing were subjected to arbitrary and incommunicado detention for more than five months after their disappearance.
On September 19, 2021, the Guangzhou police forcibly arrested XueBing on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” on the grounds that they had been organizing social gatherings at their home for a long time. Since then, the Guangzhou police never delivered the “Notice of Detention” as required by law to the families of the two. It was not until April 1, 2022, when Wang met with his lawyer for the first time, that we learned that Wang had been illegally detained incommunicado in a location hitherto unknown for secret interrogation for at least five months, on the grounds of “COVID prevention.” He was finally transferred to a collective detention center in the sixth month since his arrest. When detained incommunicado, Wang was subjected to dozens of grueling questioning, as well as both physical and psychological torturing, in conditions similar to those of ‘residential surveillance in a designated location’, or RSDL. By using Covid as an excuse, the Guangzhou police circumvented the use of RSDL, a measure that has been criticized heavily by the international community and the United Nations, on official written documents at least. Huang Xueqin was also held in a similar situation, but we were unable to obtain more specific details because she was deprived of her freedom of communication and access to a lawyer(s) of her choice over the past year.
During his incommunicado detention, Wang Jianbing’s physical and mental condition were exacerbated: he not only suffered from irregular diet and gastrointestinal disorders, but also mental fatigue and depression. Huang Xueqin lost 5kg (~11lb) in the first six months of her detention, given that she already weighed less than 50kg before her arrest.
Huang’s current situation in the detention center remains unknown. In late March 2022, Huang’s family appointed Wan MiaoYan (万淼焱), one of Huang’s long-time friends, to represent her, and the engagement letter was sent to the detention center and signed by Huang. However, later in mid-April, the police suddenly presented a “termination letter” signed by Huang, claiming that Huang had terminated her engagement with Wan. In late April, Wan tried to go to the detention center to confirm the situation with Huang, but her request to meet with Huang was also denied by the detention center on the grounds of “COVID prevention.” Huang has been represented by a government-appointed lawyer(s) since then.
Until now, Huang’s family and friends still have no way of knowing her current condition because she has been deprived of freedom of communication. This is a very worrying situation. When she was last arrested in 2019 for documenting the “Anti-Extradition Law Movement” protest in Hong Kong, she was represented by Wan Miaoyan too. However, this time, despite Huang having signed letter to engage Wan, Wan was quickly replaced by a government-appointed lawyer, which raises suspicions that Huang was coerced into making this decision.
Since XueBing’s arrest, the Guangzhou police, in conjunction with public security departments across the country, have continued to issue local or cross-regional subpoenas or conduct interrogations. Over 70 of XueBing’s friends and gathering participants have been summoned by the police for interrogation, and, according to the preliminary statistics, among which more than 10 activists were evicted from or pressured to leave Guangzhou by the police through various means (such as pressure on landlords, intimidation of family members, continuous harassment of the activists, etc.). Without following legal procedure, the Guangzhou police interrogated the activists for up to 24 hours, some even multiple times, and forcibly searched and downloaded contents from their electronic devices.
Furthermore, the police also forced and threatened some of XueBing’s friends to sign false statements fabricated by the police. They were forcibly asked to identify that XueBing had participated in the so-called training activities related to “subvert state power” and to fabricate the gathering at Jianbing’s apartment as a political event criticizing the government. The multiple written records the police have collected and produced over the last year consisted primarily of falsified testimonies signed by civil activists/friends of XueBing under duress, or outright fabrications by the police.
According to various sources, we have learned that the case of Wang Jianbing has been transferred to the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court on August 12, 2022, while the case of Huang Xueqin remains enshrouded. It is speculated that the two cases should now reach the court together without separate trials. According to Article 202 of the PRC Criminal Procedural Law , the court should conclude a case and come to a verdict no later than 180 days after the indictment is formally accepted. However, during the 180-day period of the first instance, the court may return the case to the Procuratorate Office again to conduct an additional investigation for a period up of to a month, after which the case will be resubmitted to the court with a fresh start of another 180 day.
Although XueBing’s case has been transferred to court and is in its first instance, we are unable to estimate when the case would be tried. The PRC Criminal Procedure Law provides the judiciary with ample discretion power to prolong the hearing timing. However, we still can foresee that the trial of XueBing would be totally an unjust, government-directed, formalist and closed-door secret trial. At this stage, we believe that the two will extremely likely face immense political pressure, especially Huang Xueqin, who has even been deprived of the right to legal counsel, all this to make sure that the two would plead guilty to the absurd and unfounded charges on trial.
It has been six months since we lost contact with our beloved friends Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing. During their darkest days in solitary confinement without access to lawyers, friends and family, we cannot imagine the kind of torture and humiliation they are going through. The tactics adopted by the Chinese authorities to suppress civil society and activists are clear by now—through continuously fabricating evidence, torturing the activist under solitary confinement (or RSDL), and cutting all means of communication and counsel with their lawyer, the authorities drag the case on and on until the activists confess to their supposed crime. We are enraged that XueBing have been going through such inhumane treatment.
The year-long incommunicado detention must have a huge detrimental impact on XueBing’s physical and mental health, which we, as their friends and family, have been deeply concerned about. However, we believe XueBing must still hold on to the belief that being a journalist is not a crime, participating in #MeToo is not a crime, supporting workers is not a crime, and fighting for social justice should never be a crime!
As Friends of Huang and Wang:
*We strongly condemn the arbitrary detention and criminal charges of Huang and Wang by the Guangzhou authorities. We demand that the authorities immediately disclose their physical and mental health conditions. The authorities must guarantee Huang’s access to legal counsel for her own choice without intimidation, ensure Huang and Wang’s right to communication and to a fair trial, and their lawyers’ right to provide counsel and access to case files without intervention.
*We strongly urge the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court to conduct an open trial rather than closed-door, ensure Huang and Wang’s right to legal representation and their lawyers’ basic right of defense, and initiate a strict scrutinization of the numerous fabricated ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’ associated with the case.
*We are sincerely grateful to international NGOs, human rights organizations, media outlets and the global civil society community for their solidarity support to Huang and Wang. We believe, Huang and Wang would also very appreciate everyone’s continued concern on the situations of human rights abuse in China. We call on more international groups to continue to pay attention to and support the deeply suppressed Chinese human rights defenders.
*We deeply wish all of Huang and Wang’s friends and comrades in civil society who have been affected by this case to stay STRONG. Political repression will make us severely fearful, but only the unity, company and mutual support of each other can keep us strong and free. This is also what Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing have been working on in their struggle.
It may be challenging to campaign for XueBing’s release, but our effort to increase public attention and pressure will definitely help to improve XueBing’s treatment in the detention center. Every small action COUNTS!
A) Postcard Campaign: Please send a postcard for XueBing and do not forget to TAKE a picture of your postcard and email us before mailing it.
Postcard Mailing Address:
Wang Jianbing 王建兵 OR Huang Xueqin 黄雪琴 (one name per postcard)
Guangzhou Di San Kanshousuo (No.3 Detention Center)
189 Qingcha Rd. Baiyun District, Guangzhou 510430, Guangdong, China
Email backup: email@example.com
B) Photo Support: Please take a picture with photos of Huang Xueqin or Wang Jianbing in your city, and send the solidarity picture to email (firstname.lastname@example.org) as part of our social media campaign. If you have security concerns, please blur your face with an image editing app before sending or write to us for assistance.
Xuebing pictures can be taken using the two pictures at the bottom of this page or using their life photos
C) Spread the Words: Please stay tuned for updates on XueBing’s case via our website, and social media platform. Please widely repost our content on your social media (especially on Mainland’s social platform), which will allow XueBing’s story to reach more people.
Friends of Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing
September 19, 2022
Appendix I Support from International Civil Society
a. Following Huang and Wang’s enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, International Federation of Journalists, Front Line Defenders, Chinese Human Rights Defenders, and the EU Delegation to China expressed their support and concern through statements.
b. In March 2022, International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and Japan-based human rights organization Human Rights Now spoke at the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to pay attention to the XueBing crackdown and to pressure the Chinese government to release them immediately.
c. In the UK, 55 feminist scholars and 83 members of the UK University and College Union (UCU) respectively initiated and participated in a joint signature, demanding that the Chinese government immediately release Huang and Wang; 112 Chevening scholars issued a joint statement expressing serious concern over the arbitrary detention and inability to visit the activists, and urged the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office and its Chevening Committee to speak out on the matter.
d. Nearly 100 friends from all over the world sent postcards to Huang and Wang, expressing their concern and blessings for them and protesting against the police illegality. In addition, supporters in London, Hong Kong, Taipei, the United Arab Emirates and other places wore masks of Huang and Wang to protest in various parts of the city, calling on the Chinese government to release the two.
e. On the day of May 3, 2022, the World Press Freedom Day, a social media campaign initiated by the human rights NGO ISHR, joining with half a dozen of other international NGOs, including Reporters Without Borders, Front Line Defenders, Chinese Human Rights Defenders, etc, to show great concern on the situations of the imprisoned journalist Huang Xueqin, and call on the Chinese government release Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing immediately and unconditionally.
f. In February 2022, six of UN independent expert- including the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention - sent a letter to the Chinese government expressing serious concern over Wang Jianbing’s enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention. On April 1, the Chinese government simply denied the allegation. On May 11, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention formally declared that Wang’s detention to be “arbitrary” and urged authorities to ensure his immediate release and access to remedy.
g. In May 2022, Huang Xueqin was nominated by Index on Censorship, an NGO that has long been concerned with freedom of expression globally, as one of the three candidates for the 2022 “Freedom of Expression Awards” in journalism. The award honors those standing on the front lines of freedom of expression around the world, of which Huang Xueqin is seen as a key figure – her significant role in covering and initiating the Chinese MeToo movement, as well in supporting the sexual victims.
h. In June 2022, Huang Xueqin was awarded Wallis Annenberg Justice for Women Journalists Award by the International Women’s Media Fund (IWMF), which honors women journalists who show remarkable persistence and bravery. The award praised Huang’s career reporting on injustice & corruption in China – including pioneering the #MeToo movement.