September 19 marks the anniversary of the arrest of Chinese investigative journalist Huang Xueqin by the Chinese communist regime.
Reporters Without Borders, also known as Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) and 24 other human rights organizations joined forces to demand, in a letter, her release along with labor rights defender Wang Jianbing.
Cédric Alviani, one of the RSF representatives, said, “The arbitrary detention of Huang Xueqin, a prominent journalist who was only serving the Chinese public by researching social issues, demonstrates the determination of the Chinese government to silence all remaining independent voices in the country.”
He goes on to call for Huang’s “immediate release alongside all other journalists and press freedom defenders detained in China.”
On September 19, 2021, police in Guangzhou (China) arrested Huang and Wang on charges of “inciting subversion of state power.” They were placed in solitary confinement similar to RSDL (Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location) on the pretext of preventive measures against COVID-19.
After more than five months of secret interrogations without access to a lawyer, they were transferred to the prosecutor’s office. The case was handed over to the court in August, but no trial date has been set.
Reporters Without Borders in its statement emphasized its concerns about the conditions of detention of both prisoners.
Wang suffered physical and mental abuse. His health worsened due to poor nutrition and suffers from depression due to prolonged isolation.
Huang’s conditions are severe. She was denied access to a lawyer and relatives, and they fear for her health.
The statement said, “According to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela’s rules), prolonged isolation, that is, isolation lasting more than 15 days, should be prohibited, as it may constitute torture or ill-treatment.”
Huang, nicknamed “Snow Cake,” was born in 1988, in Shaoguan, Guangdong. She was an investigative reporter for several major newspapers such as the New Express and Southern Metropolis Weekly.
Their works focused on issues such as gender and equal rights, corporate pollution, and vulnerable and marginalized groups.
She is well known to members of #MeToo for being one of its promoters by participating in several reports on the subject and for assisting victims of sexual assault and harassment. She is considered one of the leading advocates for women’s rights in China.
In 2017, she conducted a survey that revealed over 80% of female journalists in China have been subjected to varying degrees of sexual harassment in the workplace. Her report had considerable repercussions.
In 2019, Huang planned to study for a master’s degree in law at Hong Kong University, but was arrested by the Guangzhou and kept in prison for 3 months on charges of “picking fights and stirring up trouble.” This came after Huang blogged an article about the 2019 Hong Kong protests.
The article contradicted the official version that the June 9, 2019, anti-extradition march in Hong Kong was fomented by “Western powers in collusion with the opposition.”
According to Huang, “This is the voluntary participation of 1.03 million citizens. The occupation of the Legislative Council is only a group of enthusiastic young people, and the police violently cleared the scene.”
She added these powerful words, “Perhaps, under the powerful machinery of the party-state, you can cultivate ignorance and fear, block information and news, and distort reality and truth, but through personal experience and testimony, you cannot pretend to be ignorant, you cannot give up the records, you can’t stand still. The darkness knows no bounds, and only a trace of truth and light remains, and you must never give up.”
On January 17, 2020, she was released on bail.
Before her second arrest, Huang was due to study for a master’s degree in gender and development at the University of Sussexin the UK.
Among its attempts to eliminate any vestige of dissenting voices, the CCP does not limit itself to imprisoning journalists, it is also responsible for discrediting them and erasing their legacy.
Liu Lipeng, Chinese and now living in the U.S., worked as a censor for the Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo.
His job was to remove “sensitive” content according to government directives, reviewing up to 60,000 posts.
Liu witnessed the disinformation campaign against Huang.
Liu said, “Huang is a very famous reporter. If they want to erase everything from their past, it is a very difficult task.”
How to destroy the free press
“The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China” is the title of a detailed investigation carried out by Reporters Without Borders on December 7, 2021.
It reveals the magnitude of the campaign of repression against journalism and the right to information led by the Chinese Communist Party.
Some of the points on which the report focuses are:
- Journalists forced to be representatives for the Party: Where they are subjected to indoctrination through compulsory courses.
- The biggest persecutor of journalists in the world: At least 127 journalists are prisoners of the regime, for reporting on “sensitive” topics.
- Foreign correspondents not welcome: 18 journalists were forced to leave the country, through surveillance and visa blackmail. Three others are in prison on espionage charges.
- COVID-19 as an excuse for increased repression: Ten reporters were arrested for reporting on the COVID-19 crisis. Two are still in custody.
- Media blackout in Xinjiang: Seventy Uighur journalists are imprisoned following a violent crackdown on their ethnic group.
RSF’s World Press Freedom Index shows that China is 177th out of 180 in the world. Hong Kong before falling into the hands of the regime was ranked 18th. Today it is ranked 80th.
After the repression of journalists and the forced closure of one of the last bastions of independent information, Apple Daily, in a short time Hong Kong could sink under the red tide of censorship.