China: Concerns raised for health of jailed journalist

Concerns have been raised for journalist and women’s rights activist Sophia Huang Xueqin, who is said to have been experiencing severe health issues during her pre-trial detention since September 2021. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns Huang Xueqin’s arbitrary jailing and urges the Chinese authorities to provide her with immediate medical support and ensure her swift release.

Huang Xueqin pictured in 2020, was arrested on the eve of her departure to the UK. Credit: Twitter

Press freedom advocates have raised concerns at the citizen journalist’s reported deterioration in health throughout her 500-plus day detention. According to Front Line Defenders, Huang is said to be experiencing symptoms of hormonal imbalance, secondary amenorrhea, weight loss, severe calcium deficiency, low glucose levels, low blood pressure and emotional stress, all of which pose a significant risk to her long-term health if untreated.

Reports also indicate Huang is frequently summoned by prison officials for late-night interrogations, disrupting her sleep schedule.

In Mid-April 2022, Wan Miaoyan, Huang’s close friend, human rights defender and lawyer, received a letter signed by Huang indicating she had elected to dismiss Wan as her defence lawyer. Wan had previously represented Huang through her previous detentions, with the citizen journalist appointing Wan as her legal counsel in late March. Critics have questioned the authenticity and agency of this decision.  

Huang and human rights defender and labour activist Wang Jiangbing were arrested in Guangzhou the day before Huang’s departure to the United Kingdom to study at the University of Sussex in September 2021. Xueqin and Jianbing were accused of “inciting subversion of state power”. At the time of their arrest, both were denied access to lawyers, or contact with family members, with a trial date still yet to be announced.

Before her arrest, Huang was a leader of the #MeToo movement in China, and was previously detained in October 2019 and January 2020 for her commentary on mass protests in Hong Kong, charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.

The IFJ said: “Reports that Huang Xueqin’s health is deteriorating are deeply concerning. The arbitrary detention and persecution of journalists in China is a serious and unacceptable violation of human rights.The IFJ condemns the detainment of Huang Xueqin and urges the Chinese authorities to release her immediately and ensure she has access to appropriate medical care.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram