Sentencing for Guangzhou activists months after closed-door trial

Nearly ten months after their closed trial for inciting subversion took place, women’s rights advocate Huang Xueqin (黄雪琴) and labor activist Wang Jianbin (王建兵) were sentenced to five years and three and a half years, respectively, by the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court on June 14, 2024. Inciting subversion is an endangering state security (ESS) crime. Huang said that she will appeal.

Each also received a supplemental deprivation of political rights sentence of four years and three years, respectively.

Their trial commenced in September 2023, two years after the duo was first detained in Guangzhou for subversion, an ESS crime, on September 21, 2021. At the time, Huang was en route to Hong Kong, where she was set to depart to the United Kingdom to study.

According to online updates posted by supporters, prosecutors accused the pair of using overseas communication apps to organize gatherings at Wang’s home, among other “criminal” activities. The alleged purpose of these gatherings was to discuss social issues that would incite participants’ “dissatisfaction” with the Chinese government. Huang and Wang also participated in training sessions on non-violent activism organized by foreign NGOs. Wang received the training while studying in the United Kingdom while Huang hosted the online course from China.

Connections with overseas NGOs have become a focus of the state security laws and policies in recent years. The official messaging for the new anti-espionage law paints a dire picture of Western forces infiltrating Chinese society and suggests that people with overseas connections could be potential culprits.

Disappeared Chinese scholar sentenced to six years for espionage 

Former professor at the Hokkaido University of Education Yuan Keqin (袁克勤) was reportedly sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for espionage in Changchun, Jilin, on January 31, 2024. The news only emerged in May 2024. His conviction came more than four years after he went missing in May 2019 while in China on a temporary visit.

Since the trial was held behind closed doors, information about the case remains sparse. When asked about Yuan’s condition at a regular press conference in Beijing on May 14, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs vaguely responded that China is a country under the rule of law and handles the relevant case in accordance with the law. No updates were provided.

Yuan is not the first Japan-based Chinese academic to go missing after returning to China. In February 2023, Fan Yuntao (范云涛), professor at Japan’s Asia University, could not be contacted after going back to China. Fan was scheduled to teach when the semester began in April that year, but he did not return for the new semester.

In March 2024, Kobe Gaulin University disclosed that the whereabouts of a Chinese scholar from the college, Hu Shiyun (胡士云), were not known following his visit to China in 2023. Professor Hu was born in Jiangsu and is said to have served as a policy advisor to the Chinese Consul General in Osaka. The reasons for Fan and Hu’s disappearances are unclear and their whereabouts are unknown.

Former New Citizens’ Movement supporter reincarcerated 

Veteran activist Chen Jianxiong (陈剑雄. aka Chen Jinxin 陈进新) was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for picking quarrels and provoking trouble (PQPT) in Hubei on April 8, 2024. This is the third time he has been imprisoned since 2013. Chen is a supporter of Xu Zhiyong’s New Citizens’ Movement which advocated for responsible use of civil and political rights and called on government officials to disclose their assets.

Chen was detained in May 2022 for voicing support for Wang Aizhong (王爱忠), a fellow New Citizens’ Movement activist. Accused of using social media to repost “false” reports about China from overseas media, Wang was detained and subsequently sentenced to three years in prison, also for PQPT.

Chen is scheduled for release on April 11, 2026. By the time of his release, he will have served more than 10 years in prison.

Zhejiang Christian bookseller released early on parole 

On April 4, 2024, Taizhou-based Christian bookseller Chen Yu (陈煜) was released on parole, two years and five months early. Chen was sentenced to seven years in prison for illegal business activity for operating an online bookstore in September 2020. In addition to prison, he was ordered to pay a fine of 200,000 yuan.

One of the titles he sold was written by pastor Wang Yi (王怡) of the Chengdu Early Rain Church. Wang is serving his nine-year prison sentence in Sichuan for inciting subversion and illegal business activity.