Honoring Chinese Women Human Rights Defenders

Comments Off on Honoring Chinese Women Human Rights Defenders

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, March 8, 2011) International Women’s Day presents an opportunity to recognize both the important role that women play in the Chinese rights defense (weiquan) movement as well as the persecution faced by Chinese women either as a result of their activism, their relationship to other activists, or because of discriminatory Chinese government policies. Whether at the grassroots or on the international stage, in public or behind the scenes, women human rights defenders in China continue to press for greater rights for all Chinese citizens and inspire with their courage and tenacity in the face of ongoing harassment from the authorities.

CHRD takes this occasion to honor several Chinese women human rights defenders listed below, recognizing their contribution to promoting human rights in the past year and drawing international attention to the precarious environment which puts them at risk for their human rights work.

Profiles of Female Human Rights Defenders

Li Jinfang ( 金芳), a native of Hebei Province and leading human rights defender, has persevered in her advocacy work in spite of constant police harassment including interrogation, intimidation, raids of her residence, and property confiscation. For many years, having endured police harassment of herself and her daughter due to the activism and imprisonment of her ex-husband, dissident Qin Yongmin (秦永敏), recently released after serving a 12-year sentence for “subversion of state power,” she has devoted herself to the promotion of human rights. Since 2007, she has been actively involved in grassroots human rights activities, including documenting rights abuses. On July 1, 2010, police raided her home in Xianghe County, Hebei Province. Officers confiscated 74 items, including human rights-related documents, computer equipment and financial documents. Several officers took Li and her daughter, Li Zhuyang, in for approximately five hours of questioning. Following her interrogation, police told Li Jinfang that she was suspected of having committed the crime of “inciting subversion of state power,” and was therefore required to report to the police if she planned to leave Xianghe County. Police also froze her bank account. During interrogations, police threatened that Li Zhuyang would not be able to attend university because of her parents’ activities. Li Jinfang has continued with her human rights activities, currently taking a great personal risk.

Liu Wei (刘巍), a human rights lawyer, was employed by Beijing’s Shunhe Law Firm until her license was revoked following a hearing in April 2010 by the Beijing Bureau of Justice as punishment for her handling of “sensitive” cases. A short documentary chronicling her experience, Disbarment, is available on the CHRD’s website. Ms. Liu has defended Falun Gong practitioners, villagers who have lost their land, torture victims, and HIV/AIDS carriers whose infection was related to government misconduct. She has also offered to provide legal aid to Tibetans detained in the wake of the March 2008 protests as well as advocated direct elections to the leadership of the Beijing Lawyers’ Association in September 2008. In 2010, she made numerous trips to Baihutou Village, in Guangxi Province, to conduct legal aid trainings and provide legal advice to villagers resisting the forced expropriation of their land, for which she received threats and harassment from police.

Ni Yulan (倪玉兰), a housing rights activist and former lawyer, was released from prison on April 15, 2010, after completing her sentence for “obstructing official business.” Ni, a torture victim who was consequently disabled, was detained after she resisted the forced demolition of her home by Beijing authorities. She was badly beaten and suffered from cruel and degrading treatment while in detention; police confiscated her crutches and made her crawl when she had to use the bathroom, and kicked her so severely that she fell unconscious for two days. Since her release, she and her husband have been forced to live on the street or in guesthouses. With help from supporters, they were able to move into Beijing’s Yuxingong Guesthouse in the summer of 2010, but have had their electricity, internet, and water intermittently cut off by hotel management under pressure by police to force the couple to leave. A short documentary by filmmaker He Yang (何杨) about her life and work, entitled Emergency Shelter, is available on CHRD’s website.

Wang Lihong ( 荔蕻) is a Beijing-based activist who has been involved in such projects as relief efforts for the “Tiananmen homeless” with Laohumiao (a noted Beijing netizen and activist) and advocacy in the case of Yang Jia (杨佳), the Beijing resident executed after he was accused of killing six Shanghai police officers. She worked with legal scholar and activist Xu Zhiyong (许志永) and others on the case of petitioner Yao Jing (姚晶), who was hospitalized after being beaten by government officials. An active Twitter user and netizen, she took part in protests outside the April 2010 trial of three Fujian netizens eventually convicted of “slander” and imprisoned for posting information online regarding the suspicious death of a young woman. In late 2010, she was administratively detained for eight days and then placed under more than three months of “soft detention” for celebrating Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Among other women human rights defenders who have been punished for their activism are Wu Huaying (吴华英), a netzien imprisoned for one year for posting articles and video online urging government officials to investigate the alleged rape and murder of a young woman in Fujian Province; Liu Jie (刘杰), a petitioner-activist subjected to 18 months of Re-education through Labor (RTL) for releasing a public letter signed by 12,150 petitioners calling on leaders at the 17th Party Congress to reform; Hua Ze (aka Linghun Piaoxiang [灵魂飘香]), a citizen journalist kidnapped, beaten and then held in a black jail in October 2010 for celebrating Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize award; and Wang Yi (王译), a netizen-activist sent to one year of RTL for an ironic Twitter posting she wrote during violent anti-Japan demonstrations

Persecution of Wives and Families of Human Rights Defenders

While many of the above-mentioned women have faced retaliation and punishment for their work, others have been targeted simply because of the activities of their loved ones. Earlier this year, CHRD released a statement drawing attention to the growing practice of punishing family members of human rights defenders, particularly their wives and children, for the activism of their husbands and fathers. Unfortunately, this trend continues and shows no signs of abating. Two of the most prominent cases are Yuan Weijing and Liu Xia, women who are currently under illegal house arrest. While Yuan and Liu are human rights defenders in their own right, the arbitrary detention to which they are being subjected stems largely from the government’s anger at their husband’s activities.

Yuan Weijing ( 伟静), wife of Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚), became the victim of retaliation by local authorities for revealing the use of violence in the local birth control campaign and publicly opposing the illegal imprisonment of her husband in Linyi, Shandong Province. Since September 2005, she has been intermittently held under illegal house arrest and harassed, and after Chen was released from prison in September 2010, the couple and their daughter have been held under continued illegal house arrest. After a video recorded by Yuan and Chen was released online in early 2011, the couple were beaten by police.

Liu Xia (刘霞), wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), has been held under illegal house arrest since October 2010. She lost contact with the outside world on October 18, and her whereabouts cannot be verified.

Others who have faced harassment and retaliation such as RTL, soft detention and search of homes by the police in 2010 as a result of their families’ human rights activities include Duan Chunfang (段春芳), sister of petitioner-activist Duan Huimin (段惠民) who died of torture at the hands of police for petitioning; Jia Jianying (贾建英), wife of former political prisoner and activist He Depu (何德普); Wu Lingling (吴玲玲), wife of Christian house church organizer and intellectual Fan Yafeng (范亚峰) who was recently subjected to severe torture; Li Xinai (李昕艾), wife of activist Gu Chuan (古川) who disappeared into police custody on February 19 ; and Fang Cao (芳草), wife of former political prisoner and activist Zhang Lin (张林).

Abuses which threaten all Chinese women- the family planning policy

On International Women’s Day, CHRD also wishes to highlight the continuing suffering of countless women across China from the government’s family planning policy, popularly known as the “one-child policy.” In a recently-published report, CHRD finds that women continue to be subjected to forced insertions of intrauterine devices (IUDs), sterilizations, abortions (including late-term abortions), as well as periodic tests for pregnancy. Men and women who have violated the policy, as well as their families and relatives, have been punished with arbitrary detention, beatings, fines, and property seizures; others have been fired from their jobs and their out-of-quota children have been denied household registration permits (hukou). The report includes an analysis of human rights abuses associated with the implementation of the policy from the past five years, demonstrating that serious violations, directed mostly against women, continue to occur.

“I don’t have control over my own body” Abuses Continue in China’s Family Planning Policy, December 21, 2010, https://www.nchrd.org/2010/12/20/i-don’t-have-control-over-my-own-body/

Also see Wang Songlian, “Women’s Birthright,” March 8, 2010, South China Morning Post, http://www.scmp.com/portal/site/SCMP/menuitem.2c913216495213d5df646910cba0a0a0/?vgnextoid=f13a202a7309e210VgnVCM100000360a0a0aRCRD&vgnextfmt=teaser&ss=China&s=News

Media Contacts:

Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 6937 or +1 240 374 8937

Wang Songlian, Research Coordinator (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 1660

David Smalls, Researcher (English) +1 347 448 5285

  • Back to Top