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By China Change, published: November 23, 2015
Su Changlan (苏昌兰) is a 44-year-old former school teacher and a petitioner-turned-activist in Guangdong province. She was arrested a year ago for her activism on women’s rights issues, and posting online messages in support of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong in 2014, according to Amnesty International. Following a recent meeting with her, her lawyer Wu Kuiming (吴魁明) expressed grave concern over her rapidly deteriorating health in custody. Human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), when apprised of the situation, said: “If we don’t take action and alleviate the situation, she will wither away before our eyes.” Maltreatment of political prisoners has become routine in Chinese prisons, and in Su Changlan’s case, the death of Cao Shunli (曹顺利) last year and Zhang Liumao (张六毛) this year should sound an alarm.
From lawyer Wu Kuiming:
[Rights defender] Su Changlan has been arrested since October 27, 2014, for allegedly “inciting subversion of state power.” Her case was finally brought to the Foshan City Intermediate People’s Court in Guangdong after a lengthy process of detention, formal arrest, an extended investigation, and two re-investigations when the procuratorate returned the case to public security. One of her counsel, Liu Xiaoyuan, of Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, found out the status of Su’s case on November 13 following assiduous inquiries with the authorities. Even so, when I ran an enquiry about the case in the Foshan court, it did not appear in the court records.
On November 20 at 3:45 p.m. I met with Su Changlan in the Nanhai police detention center and found that she had been indicted on November 13, and had received the Indictment. The Foshan Procuratorate formally interrogated her for the first time (and as of November 20, the only time) on October 21. That was after the case had been taken up by the procuracy for the third time. Su Changlan maintains that she is not guilty.
When I met with Su Changlan in the visiting room, she was as usual led in with a black hood over her head. When it was taken off, I saw she was in terrible shape—her skin and complexion was sallow, her body clearly frail. She said that she’s been locked up for over a year already, and that conditions in the detention center are horrendous. She is receiving no treatment for her illnesses, she said, and apart from the illnesses she suffered before, her throat is now chronically swollen and she coughs regularly. Earlier she’d coughed so much that she hacked up blood; after a physical inspection they gave her fluid infusions for two days.
Su says that the year-long detention has ruined her health: for a year, she has only been able to drink cold water (warm water is rare) and only able to shower in cold water. This has been extremely destructive for her as a female, she said. After six months she began suffering constipation, irregular menstrual periods, and other symptoms (women locked up in the same cell for more than six months nearly all have the same illnesses). On top of that, Su is highly sensitive to the cold, and even though Guangdong’s winter this year has been as hot as summer, she still wears a lot of clothes and uses a thick comforter. But she coughs every time she drinks cold water.
[She told me] a few days ago the detention center conducted a physical inspection of all prisoners who’ve been held more than six months; they found that Su was suffering an arrhythmic heartbeat and counterclockwise rotation of the heart. Su on three occasions wrote to the police as well as prosecutors explaining her history of illness and current symptoms, requesting that she be let out on bail, but received no response.
During the meeting, I noticed that Su’s right hand was trembling. I asked what was going on, and she responded that she was suffering a calcium deficiency—that it happens whenever she doesn’t get enough calcium.
Is Death Through Maltreatment Becoming Routine for Chinese Political Prisoners?, by Guo Baosheng, November 17, 2015.
The Life and Death of Cao Shunli (1961 — 2014), Yaxue Cao, March 18, 2014.
July 6, 2015
Dear Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Under-Secretary-General, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka,
We are the five feminist activists from China, Wu Rongrong (武嵘嵘), Wei Tingting (韦婷婷), Li Tingting (李婷婷), Wang Man (王曼) and Zheng Churan (郑楚然). We were detained on the eve of International Women’s Day in 2015 for planning events against sexual harassment on public transportation in China. Thanks to the national and international pressure on the Chinese government, we were released on bail in mid-April.
After our release, we learnt from the media that UN Women was deeply concerned with our case. As reported by the Reuters, UN Women “has been closely engaged with the developments throughout and welcomes the release of the five women from detention.” We are grateful for your support.
However, our case is not over. Even though the Haidian People’s Procuratorate in Beijing decided not to approve our formal arrest in April, for lack of evidence that we had committed any criminal offense, the police have not dropped our case. Since our release, we have been under investigation and strict surveillance as “criminal suspects.” Our travel and social activities have been restricted, and we have not been able to resume our NGO work. Organizations that supported us have been raided. Some have been threatened, and others have been forced to suspend their operations. Some of our supporters have been treated as suspects, too, and, among them, two male activists have recently been secretly detained on groundless charges.
The last few months have been the most depressing period for the Chinese feminist movement. We are witnessing a time when civil society in China is unable to continue to work with the Chinese government and the UN system as productive partners. This is an unexpected and shameful setback, as well as a historical mistake, on the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.
All these years we have dedicated ourselves to ending gender-based violence and discrimination in China, and to promoting the wellbeing of disadvantaged groups, including young girls, the LGBT community, and women affected by AIDS, disability and poverty. We have earned recognition from the public in China for our efforts, and for our constructive communications, which have resulted in an improvement of gender-related policies. Our activities have resonated strongly with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration, and the Beijing Platform of Action. They have also contributed to good governance and social stability in China. The effective termination of our work, and the constraints on our political freedom, are not just our losses, but also losses for China’s society and government.
July 7 marks the fourth full month since our detention. The abuses we underwent are still too disturbing to cope with. We are writing to you, Mr. Pan and Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka, to ask for your continued attention to our plight. It may be the case that our situation can only be solved through the Chinese legal system, but we believe that as a member state of the United Nations and a signatory to multiple human rights conventions, China will be willing to heed your recommendations. Please help us!
We thank you in advance. Our family and supporters also wish to convey their thanks.
Chinese Feminist Five:
Wei Tingting, Zheng Churan, Wu Rongrong, Li Tingting, and Wang Man
Contact the feminist five or their lawyers:
- Wu Rongrong : +86 18698558680
- Li Tingting: +86 18612707010
- Ge Wenxiu (Wei Tingting’s lawyer): +86 18028627307
- Liu Shuqing(Wu Rongrong’s lawyer):+86 13355415256
- Wang Yu (Li Tingting’s lawyer): +86 13911070328
Meet the 5 Female Activists China Detained, the New York Times, April 6, 2015.
Wu Rongrong: How I Became a Women’s Rights Advocate, April 27, 2015.
Chinese Officers Harshly Interrogated Women’s Rights Activist, Husband Says, the New York Times, April 27, 2015.
Published: May 6, 2015
Below are excerpts of the letters they posted following their release on April 13, 2015.
Wei Tingting (韦婷婷), April 17, 2015
Since the first day home, I have been constantly trying to make up for what I missed during the detention, reading your articles, tracking your chats, browsing through various reports from various venues, and then allowing tears to flow. I am moved and excited each day by your spirit, bravery and love, so much so that I can hardly sleep at the night. Having too much to say and too much to write about, I do not know how to start, overwhelmed by waves of feelings.
On the way back, I got to know the various voices of support from all over the world. I shed tears when I read how Po Po cried when she took out my clothes to dry on the line. I shed tears when I read how Xiao Tie prepared for me a T shirt/poster of the handsome Esther Eng. [Esther Eng was a Chinese–American film director and the first female to direct Chinese-language films in the United States.”] I shed tears when I read, one after another, articles posted in the two public [WeChat] accounts.
I saw the protest photos you took and loved especially the one featuring two half-naked girls. I saw your declaration that the feminist activist group (女权行动派) would never die, and there are too many of us to be all put in jail. My tears swelled uncontrollably when I saw you walking in cities wearing our photos as masks, so cute yet so determined, so warm to the heart. I already shed a flood of tears when Lawyer Wang, on his visit, told me about the mask protest for our loss of freedom. I was about to shed tears again when S said that those outside were, in fact, suffering more than those inside [the jail].
A few hours ago, Huang Ye said she was so concerned that she wanted to help find psychological assistance for me. So many people have called to inquire after me since I was released, and so long was the list of friends who want to take me out for dinner to comfort me. Even more touchingly, some of my college alumni had spoken up on my behalf, and a younger male alumni had written an article about me. Isn’t this what motivated us to do what we did from the very beginning: to let more people understand gender equality and to become one of those who make a difference?
Our faces have turned up in different countries. Because three of us are lesbians, All Out have collected over 100,000 signatures, promising they will help whenever we are in need of support. Upon hearing that my cellphone and computer were taken away, some friends wanted to bring me new ones. Friends in the gay/lesbian circle started posting my earlier articles, speeches, calling gays and lesbians to support the feminists. I was nominated for the Asian LGBT Milestone Award. Now I believe that, whether they like feminism or not, they understand that this is not just about women, or sexual harassment; the issues of the disadvantaged are always interconnected.
All of these have filled my heart with love, hope, and courage, inspiring me to go forward with surer steps.
I was disheartened at first, thinking this would be the end of the young feminist activists. But what each of you did has ushered in a new era of magnificent and persistent feminist activism, which shall live on, which cannot be locked up or shut down. You have also managed to bring the young feminist activists beyond China, and onto the international stage. As Sile (赵思乐) puts it: Whether or not we will be able to continue all depends on ourselves as a group. When some of us got into trouble and are imprisoned, the others did not disperse in fear. Instead, we overcame our fear and took action.
Although we cannot meet at the moment, I feel we are closely and profoundly united. I feel blessed to share such a bond with you, and I love you more than ever.
I’m in my hometown recovering now. So far so good. I shall take this experience as part of life’s trials and tribulations. The only regret I have is that, for the time being, I cannot leave here to hug you all. We of this generation love freedom. Cheers for freedom. A cup of wine until we see each other. Love you.
Li Tingting (李婷婷, a.k.a. Maizi), April 20, 2015
Thank you for your support, my friends in China, including my feminist allies, LGBT comrades, college alumni, close friends and netizens who care for me. Thank you for your help. In a domestic situation as critical at it is now, you have great power to speak up for justice and truth regardless of the cost. It was just for your efforts that I could walk out of the house of detention and see the smog of the capital city again.
Thank you for your support, lawyer Yan Xin, Xu Rong, and Wang Yu. You have never stopped providing me with strong support when I was illegally detained or since I was released on bail. Thank you for stepping out to represent me. Your timely visits and legal efforts helped make it possible to defend my legitimate rights, your effective communication and constant encouragement helped instill confidence in me that I’m innocent when I was interrogated and faced the pressure of self-incrimination.
Thank you, friends from all over the world, I may or may not know you but you are our allies and fellow-travelers. Your concern for our case and your demand for our freedom enabled more people to know us, to understand us, and you have made China and the world witness the strength and power of the young feminist activists. If we eventually achieve the dignity and freedom we deserve, you will be among those whose contribution is indelible.
Thank you, my family. You have fought fearlessly in the face of danger. You pushed back the pressure and refused to write a letter to persuade me to confess to a crime that I had not committed. You have been my most solid backer and my safe haven, and you have freed me from all family concerns.
Thank you, my girlfriend. In face of hardship, you endured insult and humiliation to secure the best outcome for me. Today, you are still doing everything you can to handle issues after my release. Xiao La (小辣), I’m sorry to put you through all this.
There are more feelings in me than I can express in words. There is so much to thank. I hope to have a chance to thank each of you in person. Our struggle has yet to succeed, and there is still hard work ahead. I will continue to fight for my innocence and freedom, and I will keep up the pursuit of justice. My belief in feminism has become only stronger after this episode. Thank you all again.
Wang Man (王曼), April 20, 2015
Hi, my caring and loving friends:
It’s been a full week since I came out of the Haidian Detention Center. Encouraged by friends and loved ones, I have been recovering. Please be assured that I am all right now.
Since the first phone call I answered upon my release, what I have wanted to say the most is simply thank you all – my family, friends, and lovers of justice in China and abroad, whom we may or may not know, who voiced their support. Without you, we might still be in prison enduring brutalities.
I want to thank Ms. Zhao Xia, my lawyer. The moment I saw her, I was reassured by her succinct and powerful remarks, which strengthened my belief in my innocence and informed me of the support in China and beyond.
I want to thank my four “co-offenders.” Their singing, which soared above the barbed wire walls, and their firm glances helped me to hold back tears.
I want to thank my fellow inmates (I hope they will see these words when they are freed). They did chores and duties for me, and they gave me the corner, the best spot in the cell, to me so that I could rest better, encouraging me to “get recharged and persevere to the end.”
I want to thank my friends, my elders, my lawyers and media friends for their rescue efforts on our behalf. They have embraced personal risks when they campaigned for us. Whether they carried it on or were forced underground, I imagine you have endured no less than I did.
I want to thank various women’s rights groups and people from all walks of life inside and outside China. Loud and clear, you supported us, strangers and ordinary people tens of thousands miles away, and your voices from beyond the national boundaries have impressed me profoundly.
The 38 days behind bars have strengthened me. We have yet to regain our rightful freedom and justice, we shall continue to demand them, and we appreciate your continuing support.
Thank you again!
Zheng Churan (郑楚然, a. k. a. Datu)
I thought I would cry only when I was detained, and I thought I would stop crying once released. No, not at all. I am still crying. As I browsed through the multitude of voices of support posted in the past 38 days, I was shaken from head to toe! During my only meeting with the lawyer, I was moved when Mr. Hu said “many people are campaigning for you, international, domestic, and especially from Sun Yat-san University,” but I had no idea that the campaign was so large, so earth-shaking, so beyond what I had ever seen. I was so moved, so flabbergasted that I did not know what to say but let tears flow.
Using a borrowed cellphone, I browsed articles that had not yet been censored (of course, most WeChat posts had been deleted with a big red exclamation mark in their places), crying as I read. My heart thumped when I saw photos of the five of us being carried from city to city around the world. I couldn’t stop crying when I learned that my schoolmates in Sun Yat-san University were summoned by police, warned by school administrators, and the campus was being “interrogated.” I can’t tell you how proud I am of my alumni and friends from other university campuses for their moral clarity.
Belatedly I received greetings from almost all corners of the world. I saw feminism being widely discussed. Feminists, women’s rights activists, LGBTQIA supporters, NGOers, our lawyers, legal professionals, citizens, my factory worker friends, students, scholars, researchers, media friends, and everyone else……I browsed through the posts of the friend circle, and I’m still reading it today, still crying now and then. And I read over and over again articles by teachers and mentors who I had always admired.
How vulnerable I was when I was cut off from information, and how my self-confidence and self-esteem ebbed in isolation. Once out of jail, I realized all the worries I had about you all while I was in detention were completely unnecessary—you are braver and stronger than I had thought and you are my pride. Your posts in the friend circle helped me to restore my confidence. Reading those legal analyses of this case, I saw that I was innocent (I will start reading the criminal law and the criminal procedural law). Law is not a doll to be dressed by someone at will; it is based on reason. Oh, I digressed.
Thanks to all of you, thanks for everything you are, past, present, and future.
Wu Rongrong, April 18, 2015
With your caring thoughts and well-wishing over the last few days, Rongrong has been slowly reviving, finding again her inner strength.
The night I was released, my husband choked several times telling me what had happened while I was in jail. I felt inspired as never before. As Teacher Wang Zheng put it, this is a world-wide women’s rights movement.
I have been catching up for the past few days, reading once and again some articles. The love and care emitting from those pages gives me the strength to start anew. I saw the signatures of my Hepatitis B friends; I saw the signature campaign launched by the lawyers; I saw feminist sisters inside China and abroad wearing masks of our photos; I saw people tirelessly passing on information and speaking out for the sake of justice; I saw photos of Big Sis Ye Jinghuan being taken away by police as she showed up in the detention center to bring me medicines; I saw the nursery rhymes professor Ai Xiaoming wrote and the letter from Professor Wang Zheng. Indeed, help and concern came from many and from all over the places. I feel love and strength.
On behalf of my family, I thank you all. While in custody, I had a dream one night. I dreamed of a roomful of balloons and smiles. And I believe I felt then the power of your support. It will accompany me wherever I go.
I look forward to seeing you again one day, when we will talk and cheer.
Meet the 5 Female Activists China Has Detained, April 6, 2015.
Wu Rongrong: How I Became a Women’s Rights Advocate, April 27, 2015
The Education of Detained Chinese Feminist Li Tingting, an Excerpt from “China’s Millennials: The Want Generation” by Eric Fish.
Taking Feminist Battle to China’s Streets, and Landing in Jail, April 5th, 2015.
Lawyer’s Account of Second Meeting with Li Tingting, March 25, 2015
(Translated by Li Sumiao)
By Wu Rongrong, published: April 27, 2015
Wu Rongrong (武嵘嵘), though released along with the four other feminist activists on April 13, was subjected to grueling, humiliating interrogations on April 23rd and 24th. Don’t let the CCP machine destroy the very best of China. – The Editor
Fate and chance made me a social worker and a feminist: gentle and timid in appearance, but a staunch defender of women’s rights.
After four years of college social work studies and volunteer experience, I set off on a path of social advocacy
At college, I majored in social work. I fell in love with the ideas, values and curriculum of that major, its concern for society’s most vulnerable groups and its quest for fairness and justice. My Alma mater, China Women’s University (中华女子学院), was papered with images of heroic women who had been tireless campaigners for women’s rights. During my college years, apart from studying the book, I spent a lot of time volunteering at various public interest NGOs. I spent nearly two years as a volunteer at the China Children’s Press and Publication Group’s “Heart-to-Heart Hotline,” and nearly four years as a volunteer at the New Path Foundation’s Big Brother/Big Sister Program, where I served until I moved back to Hangzhou. In addition, I did a variety of volunteer work for other NGOs, pitching in for periods of days or weeks.
In the second half of my senior year at college, a friend who had opened up a bookstore couldn’t believe that I managed to be so actively involved in various kinds of social work while I was still bunking with roommates in a tiny, less than 8-meter-square, 600-yuan-per-month [then about $75 US dollars] apartment near Tsinghua University. But my material needs were few, and I realized that what made me happiest was using what I’d learned to do something of value to society.
In addition to my volunteer work during those years, I also did some personal advocacy, speaking up for the legitimate rights of many disadvantaged people. For example, when I heard about a female student who had been infected with HIV and was being pressured by her college to drop out, I took action at my own college—telling my friends, classmates and roommates to tell their friends and classmates about the young woman’s predicament, in the hope of drawing societal attention to the fact that she and other HIV-positive individuals have a legitimate right to an education. I was involved in many such efforts.
As a young student striving for academic success, I applied for scholarships and grants that required me to obtain certain certifications from officials of my home village. These officials frequently took advantage of the situation to sexually harass me or make me clean their houses for free. As a young student in that sort of environment, I had no advocate or supporter to turn to. Had I tried to speak up for myself, it would have resulted in humiliating gossip and innuendo and made me unable to show my face in the village.
In 2005, instead of returning to my hometown for Chinese New Year, I decided to stay in Beijing and find work. When I found myself in a car headed for Shunyi [a district in the far northeastern corner of Beijing] with a man who had posed as an employer to lure me there, I began to understand just how helpless I was—a weak and feeble woman versus a large and powerful man. Fortunately, thanks to some quick thinking on my part, I managed to call for reinforcements and get away. Like me, all of my female friends encountered harassment when looking for full-time or part-time work. As eighteen- or nineteen-year-old girls, all we could think of was buying a fruit knife for self-defense.
I am interested in public service, not only because of my vocation, but also because of a beautiful misunderstanding. While in college, en I entered university, a physical exam revealed that I was a “healthy carrier” of hepatitis B. Growing up in a small mountain village in Luliangshan (山西吕梁山), I had never heard of such a thing, but the doctor at the Sino-Japanese Friendship Hospital [in Beijing] told me not to worry, I could be 28 years old before I got sick. I took this to mean that I had only 10 more years to live, so from then on, I made a habit of trying to live each day to the fullest, and make sure each day was meaningful.
Why I stood up for Deng Yujiao (邓玉娇) and spoke out against sexual harassment— courage and conviction in the struggle for women’s rights
As a child, I grew up in an extremely patriarchal environment where girls were regarded worthless. Too many times, I witnessed promising young girls from our village forced to abandon their studies and go to work to support their brothers’ educations. My close friend and neighbor, who was one of four children, was only thirteen years old when she left school and started working. After a large portion of her body was burned in an explosion of a fireworks factory, she eventually got married to a very elderly man. As the daughter of a poor family, my quest for an education was hampered not only by severe economic hardship, but also by well-meaning people who tried to dissuade me from continuing my education.
In 2009, when a young sauna employee named Deng Yujiao used a fruit knife to stab to death a government official who had been sexually harassing her, it made me think of the harassment that many of my female classmates and I had experienced. To show our support for Deng Yujiao, a younger female classmate and I put on a work of performance art called “Deng Yujiao could be any one of us.” Although that was over six years ago, during my recent detention the interrogators asked me about that performance repeatedly, and kept demanding to know who or what was behind it. I told them exactly what I’ve described above, and while I don’t know if my explanation elicited any compassion from them, I hope that it did, at least from those with daughters of their own at home. I’m not some mastermind conspirator working behind the scenes to disturb the social order; I just want to call attention to the plight of women facing sexual harassment, and call for more public measures to punish and deter perpetrators.
Don’t cry, friends—you’re not alone
The reason my fellow feminists and I were detained was because of our planned campaign [to distribute stickers with anti-sexual harassment slogans] on March 8, International Women’s Day. But in fact, by March 6, we had already made separate promises to local police not to go forward with the event, and had even submitted our stickers and printed materials to the authorities. The original intention was simply to bring the community together to oppose sexual harassment, and to extend loving support to women who had experienced sexual harassment. Time and again, I’ve blamed myself…blamed myself for getting my fellow feminists detained. I wonder if they, like me, are being treated as political prisoners. Just thinking about it makes me even more upset. Every time I think about it, I worry that they’ll hate me for it.
Several of my fellow feminists were detained a day before I was. Some people, not understanding the situation, asked why I didn’t try to hide. The thought did occur to me, but only for a moment, and then I pushed it aside. I told some of my younger friends, the ones who hadn’t been detained, that I was going to go back to Hangzhou to explain the situation [to the authorities]. I naively thought that if [the authorities] had me in hand, other friends with minimal involvement in the campaign would be released. I naively thought that keeping my friends company would make them safer than if I went into hiding, so I made up my mind and boarded a flight to Hangzhou.
Big Rabbit [Zheng Churan’s nickname] and I were interrogated separately but on the same floor in the evenings. Twice I heard her crying. I worried whether she had a vicious interrogator, or whether she was under too much pressure or suffering too much. At the time, I stopped and strained to hear what was happening in her room. Every day I prayed that my younger friends wouldn’t lose hope, that they wouldn’t feel alone. Sometimes we saw each other, and I wished I could tell them I’m here, I’m staying strong, and just knowing that we’re not suffering alone makes it easier to bear.
Making the best of a bad situation: my creative life in detention
My beauty regime: Of the 38 days in detention, I spent 19 days in a public security bureau hospital. 19 days, that’s all it took to transform my usual sallow complexion into a beautiful rosy glow. The secret was the leftover congee [rice gruel], which I would stir and stir (of course, as I stirred, I thought of my adorable little son, whose current pet phrase is “stir, stir the chocolate”). When applied to the face and body, the pale green gruel not only rids one’s skin of sallowness, it also keeps one’s hair soft and supple. Although the hospital had no “Yumeijing” brand beauty products or good shampoo, still I managed to emerge snow white and squeaky clean.
DIY fashion to beat the heat: During my first days in the detention center, the indoor temperature was kept too high, so I had to get creative by ripping out the stitching of my shirt with my teeth and removing the sleeves. It was a very fashionable look, but unfortunately the shirt was later confiscated, so I was unable to keep it as a souvenir. However, I would not recommend that others try the same, as some detention centers prohibit detainees from altering their uniforms.
Staying in shape by running in place: This is the very best medicine for curing pain and loss. Naturally, when running in place, keeping the arms elevated the entire time is an effective treatment for both neck pain and rheumatism.
The simple pleasures of reciting classical poetry: Before, I was never really able to relax and enjoy reciting classical poetry by heart—majestic lines like [Su Shi’s] “Eastward flows the Yangtze River, washing away all traces…”, or the bold optimism of Li Bai’s “Bringing in the Wine”, or the gentle beauty of [Xu Zhimo’s] “Taking Leave of Cambridge Again.” With such enjoyment, I would feel there wasn’t anything too difficult to get through.
There’s more, so much more. Later, someone will pick up where I left off.
You see, life is beautiful, I love you all, you who give me strength and warmth. You also give me the courage to describe my experience. I believe that, at the end of all this suffering, there will be a rainbow.
(Original title: Don’t Cry, Friends—You’re Not Alone)
Chinese Officers Harshly Interrogated Women’s Rights Activist, Husband Says, the New York Times, April 28, 2015.
Chinese feminist: Long hours of interrogations after release, AP, April 25, 2015.
(Translated by Cindy Carter)
Chinese original (the Chinese was posted in a friend group as a set of jpegs; China Change transcribed them for easy reading.)
By Beijing Yirenping Center, April 14, 2015
On April 14, Hong Lei, the Spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), stated publicly that our organization, Beijing Yirenping Center (BYC), “has allegedly violated the law, and will be punished.” Our organization’s response is as follows:
1. We welcome MOFA in its open discussion on BYC, as this is an improvement upon the break-in raid into our office, in the early hours of March 24.
2. BYC will take the accusation from MOFA seriously. We will hire legal counsel to respond in accordance with China’s laws, as well as pursue the March 24 office raid.
3. Since BYC’s founding in 2006, we have been the target of rigorous “solicitude” from various departments and levels of the police force. We have reason to believe that, should BYC have broken the law in any way, the police would have raised the issue long ago, rather than leaving it to be picked up by the foreign affairs agency. The fact remains that no one in the police force has ever pointed out any illegality in BYC’s work; on the contrary, across the board they see BYC’s work as meaningful. We are now unsure which of these two divergent opinions to believe.
4. We have noticed that, starting last year, other anti-discrimination groups in China have run into a series of crackdown that is without legal basis or warning. In July 2014, Zhengzhou Yirenping, an organization whose mission is eliminating discrimination against disability, was raided; in March 2015, Weizhiming, a Hangzhou group whose mission is eliminating gender discrimination, saw the same thing happen.
5. As the first professional public interest group against discrimination in China, BYC has, in collaboration with many other players, consistently pushed the envelope on anti-discrimination and promotion of equal rights. After many years of hard work, the concept of “anti-discrimination” is increasingly gaining currency within the entire society. In the communique issued after the 4th Plenary Session of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, “the elimination of all employment discrimination” was also raised. The government declares the intention to fight discrimination on the one hand, and on the other raids the office of anti-discrimination organizations and makes accusation of “illegality.” It is hard for people to know whether the government policies are real, uniform or consistent.
6. The “Five Feminist Sisters” just released are all peers and good friends of BYC, and three of them either are or used to be our colleagues. They were arrested without justification by the police for organizing a legal education drive to fight sexual harassment on public transportation, and we joined everyone else both in China and abroad as a matter of course to protest these arrests and to advocate for them. On April 13, we were relieved and overjoyed at their release. However, we do not flatter ourselves that BYC had made any out-of-the-ordinary contribution to the advocacy campaign, nor can we prove that the March 24 raid of our office and the MOFA accusation constitute “retribution” against us.
China accuses prominent NGO of ‘breaking the law’, Reuters, April 14, 2015
China Raids Offices of Rights Group as Crackdown on Activism Continues, New York Times, March 26, 2015.
(Translated by China Change)
Chinese original, not yet available on the web.
By Wang Zheng, published: April 13, 2015
It is to my great relief that the authorities have decided to release the five feminists on bail. However, we insist that the police drop all charges against the five rather than treating them as “suspects”, restricting their physical mobility and job opportunity, and deprive them of their freedom and rights as citizens. Our fight for their total freedom continues.
In the Chinese context, this is the first time that a group of detained social activists are released all at once. This decision suggests: one, the unprecedented huge mobilization of global feminist and other non-governmental organizations’ support is effective. The massive grassroots based petitions not only pushed their own respective state politicians to respond, it also demonstrated clearly to the Chinese government that this petition is not instigated by a nation- based political enemy, but by a global political force – transnational feminists and other grassroots organizations for social justice and equality. This global political force cannot be suppressed by the Chinese state, or any national state. And no nation state should treat this global political force as its enemy. That would be too foolish.
Two, the Chinese government is not a monolithic entity and the decision is a compromise among different political factions or state branches. It can be imagined how ferocious the contentions behind the scenes were over how to handle this hot potato in their hands. The final compromise shows clearly that there were officials in the system who pushed very hard towards a positive solution.
For both above reasons, today I am hopeful. History does not end but evolves with contentions of various forces in an indeterminate manner. I am grateful for the amazing transnational support to five Chinese feminists. I feel fortunate that there are still officials in the Chinese government who chose to stand on the side of social justice, or who simply have the sensibility of not sticking to a stupid mistake.
That said, I am fully aware of the grave challenges Chinese feminists confront with. As long as non-governmental organizations’ activism for advocating and implementing laws relating to gender equality or any other issue is defined as criminal, there will be no safe zone for feminists as well as activists working in other realms for social justice. Thus, our efforts cannot stop here with the release of the five. We need to further help the government understand that feminists are an extremely important social group to move China towards the realization of rule of law. The five young feminists should be treated as exemplars of modern citizens who have a strong sense of citizens’ rights and responsibilities and who have the capacity to take action to not only advocate for new laws but also to implement the laws in a country where there remains a huge gap between the laws on paper and the actual implementation.
And we have all noticed the UN’s awkward silence in the global uproar against the detention. Now the global activists are shifting their gaze to the UN who has the plan to co-host the Global Summit for Women with China, and see if they will do something constructive to set the five feminists totally free.
Finally, I am hopeful also because throughout this process I have been witnessing the rise of an increasingly large group of extremely brave young feminists that include men. The detention and the global support have totally galvanized a whole cohort of young Chinese in and outside China, turning them into social activists with deep commitment and a global vision. They are absolutely my sunshine through this ordeal. As Yan Wenxin, a male lawyer who involved in the case, commented, “The feminist group’s amazing solidarity, tenacity, and braveness is truly admirable.” Yes, the event has turned the term “feminist” a glorious one. Today so many young women on the Wechat proudly declared, “I am so proud of being a feminist!”
Wang Zheng (王政）
April 13, 2015
Lawyer Wang Qiushi’s statement (he represents Wei Tingting) via @: