China has formally indicted two activists for “inciting subversion of state power”, a group of supporters said Saturday, as the pair face trial after two years in detention.

Journalist and #MeToo advocate Sophia Huang Xueqin and labour activist Wang Jianbing were arrested on 19 September 2021, but their trial in the southern city of Guangzhou was only due to begin on Friday, according to supporters.

sophia huang
Huang took a series of photos of herself with the hashtag #Metoo and posted them on social media. Photo: Sophia Huang.

The group said in a social media post on Saturday that the municipal prosecutor had accused Huang of “undergoing and organising training” and Wang of “publishing or reposting false statements” with the aim of undermining state authority.

They also stand accused of “arranging regular meetings in Guangzhou” with the same purpose, the group wrote on X, formerly Twitter, alongside screenshots of the purported indictment.

Wang Jianbing
Wang Jianbing. Photo: Front Line Defenders.

Huang is accused of “publishing distorted, provocative articles and speeches attacking the national government on social media”, and “gathering overseas organisers to participate in online training for ‘non-violent actions'”, according to the screenshots.

Wang, meanwhile, posted “untrue articles and speeches attacking China’s political system and government” and joined “(subversive) overseas online groups” including one commemorating the deadly Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989, the purported indictment says.

The pair were also accused of organising meetings from November 2020 at an address in Guangzhou where they “incited participants’ dissatisfaction with Chinese state power under the pretext of discussing social issues”.

The court believed to be handling the trial did not release the indictment and AFP was unable to independently verify the screenshots.

The trial is being conducted behind closed doors, and authorities have not given details on Huang and Wang’s detention, arrest or expected sentencing.

The two were involved in running a weekly gathering in Guangzhou, a member of the supporters’ group told AFP this week.

With “the whole of civil society fragmented, this was a way to reunite and reconnect, to foster a new network in Guangzhou”, they said.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping
Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the 15th BRICS summit in South Africa in August 2023. Photo: BRICS.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has cracked down on civil society movements and rights defenders since coming to power a decade ago, campaigners say.

Huang had written on social media about her experience of workplace sexual harassment as a young journalist at a Chinese news agency, in the wake of the global #MeToo movement.

She is thought to be suffering from health issues in detention, with supporters saying in February she had stopped menstruating and had experienced dramatic weight loss and back pain.

A supporters’ group member told AFP this week they had no further updates on the health of Huang or Wang, a longtime activist known for campaigning for protection of labour rights.

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