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Chinese activist Sophia Huang Xueqin is raising awareness about sexual harassment in China. Photo: Thomas Yau

Police detain Chinese #MeToo activist Sophia Huang Xueqin on public order charge

  • Huang arrested in Guangzhou for allegedly ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’

A leading Chinese feminist has been arrested in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou for allegedly disturbing public order, sources familiar with the case said on Thursday.

Two sources said Sophia Huang Xueqin, a key figure in the #MeToo movement in China, was formally arrested a week ago on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” – an offence often used by police to detain dissidents and social activists, and that can attract a prison sentence of up to five years.

The 30-year-old activist has been held at the Baiyun District Detention Centre, barred from visits from family and friends.

There were signs that the authorities have kept a close watch on Huang. Her passport was confiscated in August after she returned to China from a six-month academic trip in the United States, Hong Kong and Taiwan. She had originally planned to be in Hong Kong in September to study law but was not allowed to leave the mainland.

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She was summoned to the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau on October 17 and formally arrested.

Huang worked for state media in Guangzhou before going public in 2017 with her own experience of workplace harassment, becoming a pioneering figure in the #MeToo movement in China.

Her example encouraged others to come forward with their experiences, leading to the sacking and disciplining of a number of university academics.

In 2017, she conducted a survey of women journalists on the mainland to determine the extent of sexual harassment in the industry. She has also built an online platform to collect victims’ accounts and share information about sexual harassment, using the hashtag #WoYeShi.

Chinese universities urged to do more to fight sexual harassment in wake of #MeToo cases

While Huang has also shared photos of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong on her social media accounts, it was not clear if this activity was related to her arrests.

China has maintained strict censorship of reports and information about the protests in Hong Kong, triggered by a now withdrawn extradition bill for the handling of cross-border fugitives.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Key #MeToo activist held on public order charge