Journalist and activist Sophia Huang Xueqin was released on Saturday, three months after her detention by Guangzhou police. She was transferred to the notorious “residential surveillance” system in November, and appeared to be facing as much as five years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” CDT last month translated one of Huang’s last posts before her detention, a reflection on sustainable activism inspired by Yale historian Timothy Snyder’s book “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.” From South China Morning Post’s Laurie Chen, on Huang’s release:
“She is healthy and still in good spirits. Her activities are restricted now and she is under heavy surveillance,” said a source close to Huang who wished to remain anonymous. “But police are keeping her passport, computer and mobile phone.”
In a message sent to friends after her release, Huang wrote that it would not be convenient for her to meet with them now.
“One second of darkness does not make people blind,” she wrote.
Huang became a leading figure in the Chinese #MeToo movement in recent years. In 2017, the former state media journalist conducted a pioneering nationwide survey of workplace harassment in the news industry and was a vocal advocate for victims.[…] In the months leading to her arrest, Huang had published two essays reporting her observations of the summer protests in Hong Kong. She was about to start a law degree at Hong Kong University when her passport was confiscated in August by mainland authorities, preventing her from leaving the mainland. [Source]
The protests in Hong Kong continued on Sunday, with organizer Ventus Lau arrested after attacks on plainclothes police. Hong Kong authorities have continued to rebuff protesters’ demands for universal suffrage, and China’s top liaison official called on Monday for the passage of provocative national security legislation. The stand-off has spread beyond street protests and the political arena to suffuse society and the local economy. Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth was denied entry to the city last week, and the International Federation of Journalists issued a statement on Tuesday warning that “the failure of Hong Kong’s police to respect media freedom continues unabated. Harassment and intimidation is now the order of the day.”
The New York Times’ Javier C. Hernández reported on the broader context of Huang’s case on the mainland:
Human rights experts welcomed Ms. Huang’s release, though they cautioned that the governing Communist Party’s campaign to silence voices of dissent was still in full force.
“That she was detained at all is an indictment of Beijing’s hostility toward independent activism and journalism,” said Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group.[…] Mr. Xi’s efforts to limit dissent have continued to send waves of anxiety through China’s community of activists. Last month, as part of a nationwide crackdown, the authorities detained several prominent rights lawyers who attended a planning meeting in the eastern city of Xiamen. [Read more via CDT.] […] “Will this persecution ever end?” said Ms. Richardson, of Human Rights Watch. “And will the responsible Chinese officials ever be held accountable?” [Source]
Richardson elaborated on these gloomy prospects in her contribution to a ChinaFile conversation anticipating the top China stories and themes of 2020, commenting that “the Chinese government gives human rights activists plenty of topics to choose from.”