BY UK CHINESE FEMINISTS
It has been over half a year since feminist journalist Sophia Huang Xueqin and labour activist Wang Jianbing disappeared on the afternoon of September 19, 2021. Since then, it has been confirmed that Sophia and Jianbing were arrested by the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.”
Now, their cases have been handed by the police to prosecutors for investigation, and they are awaiting trial
Over the past few months, many people who are concerned about and supportive of Sophia and Jianbing have continued to follow the progress of the case, advocating for the two through various channels, calling on society to continue to pay attention to, support and show solidarity with them, and urging the Guangzhou police to release them unconditionally.
Sophia managed to receive a Chevening Scholarship last autumn and would have gone to the University of Sussex on September 20 to study a Master’s degree. However, she was unable to come and enjoy the same safe space to discuss academics and social justice as the other scholars who were also awarded Chevening Scholarships, as well as students who received offers from the University of Sussex. She does not even have her basic personal freedom.
Ordinary volunteer advocates have since put themselves at personal risk to campaign for the freedom of Sophia and Jianbing. By contrast, how did the University of Sussex, with its pride in progressivism and radicalism, as well as the Chevening Awards Programme, the British government’s flagship international scholarship programme, react to the jailing of prominent feminist journalist Huang Xueqin in the last six months? By doing very little, it seems.
Students at the University of Sussex have been very concerned about the matter since learning that Sophia had been disappeared. They contacted the university in a heartbeat, in hopes that the university would focus on the issue as much as possible and push for her to be released soon.
When Sophia first disappeared, the University of Sussex released a statement expressing concern. But since her arrest has been confirmed, the university has not publicly commented on her case. The students are also unaware of what exactly the University of Sussex has done so far on the case, and whether they are still keeping an eye on her situation. Everything seems to have fallen onto the deaf ears. We cannot help but question if the University of Sussex truly cares about the safety and well-being of its students, and if it is willing to pressure the Chinese government on behalf of the safety of its students.
It is also disappointing to see the lack of action from the Chevening Awards Programme. Despite the fact that a number of Chevening scholars have strongly raised concerns about the plight of Sophia and Jianbing, and have asked Chevening to stand with them and demand for their release, there has been no official statement from the programme since her arrest had been confirmed.
The Chevening programme, which aims to develop global leaders, has been touting that it “offers a unique opportunity for future leaders, influencers, and decision-makers” and that it expects Chevening scholars to stay connected and contribute to the programme on an ongoing basis. But what kind of support does a living Chevening scholar receive when she is being politically persecuted? Little, it appears. Does Chevening only focus on ‘successful’ future leaders, and not care about female journalist scholars who have lost their freedom while pursuing justice?
This is not the first time that the Chevening Awards Programme has upset its recipients. According to the Guardian, in August 2021, when the political situation in Afghanistan changed dramatically due to the country’s takeover by the Taliban, the British Foreign Office announced that 35 Afghan scholarship recipients would be deferred for a year, ignoring the fact that they were under threat from the Taliban.
It was only after extensive media coverage and international outcry that the British government agreed to help these scholarship holders to enrol. Despite all the above, there are still many scholarship alumni in Afghanistan who are not being supported by the British government and who feel ‘abandoned’. An enormous question mark should really be raised as to whether the Chevening Awards Programme is really as concerned with social justice and the safety of its Chevening Scholars, as advertised.
We hope that the University of Sussex and the Chevening Awards Programme will take concrete action to support and demonstrate solidarity with Sophia and Wang Jianbing, and negotiate with the relevant authorities transparently, in a way that those who are concerned about the two activists are able to witness. Do not disappoint and shame your students, staff, alumni and the community at large by your inaction.
黄雪琴本在今年秋天成功地获得英国志奋领奖学金支持，原计划于9月20日前往萨塞克斯大学（University of Sussex）读硕士。然而，她却无法和那些同样获得志奋领奖学金的学者们，那些获得萨塞克斯大学offer的学生们一样，在一个安全的空间里探讨学术和社会正义。她甚至连基本的人身自由都没有。