Published: July 6, 2013
On May 27, Ye Haiyan (叶海燕), perhaps China’s best-known activist for women’s rights, protested that a local school principal and a government official molested or raped six school girls in a hotel in Wangning, Hainan. She stood in the sweltering heat of the subtropics holding a hand-written sign: “Ask me to have sex with you, Principal, leave the children alone!” Her sign went viral on Weibo, inspiring thousands online to display similar signs in protest against one of the most disgusting scandals of moral corruption.
The assault on Ye Haiyan promptly began when she returned to her home in Bobai, Guangxi (广西博白). Four or five women broke into her home and beat her. She tried to defend herself, and was given 13 days of detention for “intentional injury.” The local police denied the incident and the punishment had anything to do with her action in Hainan or her activism in general.
The assault on Ye Haiyan continued when she was released. Long banners vilifying her hung on the street near her home. Crowds gathered outside her door cursing her. Police checked the ID of netizens who visited her and issued threats. Her landlord forced her to leave. In mid-June, Ye Haiyan, her daughter and her boyfriend Ling Haobo (@hb_0) moved out of Bobai to Zhongshan, Guangdong, with the help of their friend Deng Chuanbin.
The assault on Ms. Ye has continued. In the latest episode, in the early morning of July 6, Beijing time, Ye Haiyan, her family and their belongings were thrown out of the rental home they had recently moved into. The night before, their electricity was cut off (someone cut the wires). Shortly afterward they checked into a local inn to spend the night, they were driven out, according to a series of tweets and Weibo posts by both Ye Haiyan herself and Ling Haobo.
When they were thrown out on the roadside early Saturday morning, the leader of a group of security policemen told Mr. Ling, “Stand straight for me! Listen, go back to Hubei where you came from. Zhongshan does not welcome you; Guangzhou does not welcome you either. I will break your legs if I ever see you again in Zhongshan. This time around, I will have mercy on you.”
Earlier, the school told Ye that it would not be able to enroll her daughter. Then the landlord told her that she had to move out. Deng Chuanbin (@dc_b), a local resident and a long-time AIDS activist, was also threatened and everyone he had talked to in the area –more than two dozen people—was warned off.
Having discarded many of her belongings, Ye Haiyan, her family and Mr. Deng made it to Guangzhou to seek help from professor Ai Xiaoming (艾晓明). Security police followed them around. Outside Professor Ai’s building Saturday night, they were blocked by seven or eight men from entering Professor Ai’s apartment, even though Ms. Ai, who was out of town at the time, instructed, and then insisted that the property guards allow them in.
Finally, Ye’s daughter and a female friend who joined them in Guangzhou were allowed to seek temporary shelter at Professor Ai’s home, while Ye Haiyan, Mr. Ling and Mr. Deng were again on the street. In the latest update I received, around 1:30 am, Sunday morning, the three were sitting at an open-air restaurant in Fanyu (番禺), on the outskirts of Guangzhou, followed and watched by security police in a white van about 30 yards off. The three don’t know whether they will be able to check in to a hotel to rest for the night, nor do they know what tomorrow is going to be like.
I spoke to Wen Yunchao (温云超), a veteran activist now living in New York, about Ms. Ye Haiyan’s options. “What the security police want to do is to drive Ms. Ye out of their respective jurisdiction, or their ‘grid’ under China’s ‘grid management’ system.”
There have been many cases of this kind across China, in big cities in particular, where activists were sent back, against their will, to where their residency registration (hukou) was. But Mr. Wen believes that Ye Haiyan might even be rejected by her hometown should she return.
Mr. Wen Yunchao said China, in stepping up persecution of dissidents and activists in recent months, essentially leaves three options to them: prison, a mental hospital or exile, and this is something that calls for the attention of the international community and human rights organizations.
So far, those who have ownership of their homes are doing better because the government cannot drive them out of their own homes – not yet anyway. Already there is a discussion going on in Twitter’s Chinese community about the possibility of raising money for Ye Haiyan to buy a home.
But for now, Ye Haiyan is in a dire situation. The totalitarian state can exert its power to make it impossible for a lawful Chinese citizen, whose only fault is to take action for a better China, to rent a home, check in to a hotel room, enroll her child in school, have electricity and water, or meet a friend, but it wants the people and the world to buy its Chinese Dream.