Journalist Sophia Huang and human rights activist Wang Jianbing are believed to have been detained by authorities in China, said a report from the Chinese human rights group Weiquanwang.
A report on Radio Free Asia on Tuesday said Huang was scheduled to leave China via Hong Kong on September 20 for the United Kingdom where she planned to take a master’s degree in development.
The journalist is one of this year’s recipients of the British Chevening Scholarship. Wang, a labor and healthcare rights activist, was supposed to see Huang off, according to the report.
“According to people familiar with the matter, Wang Jianbing may have been detained under investigation for incitement to subvert state power, mainly due to the daily gatherings of friends at his home,” said the Weiquanwang report.
The two activists had been reported incommunicado since September 19. Repeated calls and messages to Huang’s cell phone went unanswered on Tuesday.
Sources told RFA the pair had likely been detained by police in their home district of Haizhu.
An officer who answered the phone at the Haizhu district police department in Guangzhou declined to confirm the report.
A person familiar with the case, who gave only the surname Gu, said there was no way to rescue Huang and Wang, who he said were detained alongside two other people, one of whom has since been released.
“The thing that triggered it was a protest video they made for private broadcast,” Gu said, but said he hadn’t seen the video himself.
Survey of harassment, assaults
Before being targeted by the authorities in 2019, Huang had been an outspoken member of the country’s #MeToo movement and had carried out a survey on sexual harassment and assault cases among Chinese women journalists.
Huang was also present at a protest in Hong Kong on June 9, 2019, against plans to allow extradition to mainland China. She was detained for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” in October 2019. She was released on bail in January 2020.
Huang’s travel documents were also confiscated after her return to the mainland, preventing her from beginning a law degree in Hong Kong in 2019.
She had previously assisted in the investigation and reporting of a number of high-profile sexual harassment allegations against professors at Peking University, Wuhan University of Technology, Henan University, and Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou.
Meanwhile, Wang started to work in rural development after graduating in 2005 before joining the Guangzhou Gongmin NGO in 2014 and serving as director and coordinator for the youth.
In 2018, he started advocacy and legal support work on behalf of workers with occupational diseases, and was a vocal supporter of China’s #MeToo movement.