Concern grows over feminist activists detained in China

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Originally published by Irish Times on March 24, 2015

Concern is growing over the health of one of the five feminist activists detained in Chinathis month, with reports that Wu Rongrong has had her medication withdrawn in the detention centre where she is being held.

Ms Wu, who has hepatitis, and several other activists were picked up in the run-up to International Women’s Day amid fears that they were planning a nationwide campaign against sexual harrassment, part of a broader crackdown on dissent under President Xi Jinping.

According to a Tweet from China Human Rights Defenders, Ms Wu’s lawyer Wang Feisaid: “During my two meetings with Wu Rongrong, her face is pale. She often experiences fatigue and suffers from pains in her liver. She usually wakes up spitting up blood in the morning. As her legal representative, I am extremely concerned about her health.”

When Mr Wang pressed the authorities about her fate, authorities at the detention centre said she had been “sent to the military hospital for health check,” which rights groups have yet to verify.

There were other reports that because Ms Wu is a hepatitis B carrier, she was not allowed to sleep on a bed and was ordered to sleep on the floor.

According to an email from the anti-discrimination NGO, Yirenping, Ms Wu’s friends who went to the detention centre were taken away by police, and there were fears that she could be another “Cao Shunli” case, in reference to an activist who died in detention after state security agents denied her medical attention.

In some areas, women’s rights in China have come a long way since 1949, but strict control of dissent means that feminists public displays of dissatisfaction are treated with a heavy hand.

The arrests came around the time of the annual Chinese parliament, the National People’s Congress, which this year passed a draft law against domestic violence.

Ms Wu, who is founder and executive director of the Hangzhou Women’s Centre NGO was detained, along with four other women’s rights activists in a swoop in the cities of Hangzhou, Beijing and Guangzhou.

Others detained include Li Maizi, the pseudonym of university student Li Tingting, who organised a campaign for more unisex toilets to address shortage of facilities for women.

Another activist, Zheng Churan, known as Datu, was being held in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, as well as Wang Man, and Wei Tingting (Waiting).

The police’s decision to stop Wu Rongrong’s medication has severely unsettled her family and friends, causing them concerns.

Ms Wu’s husband told Yirenping that he hoped that the police would resume her medication out of humane concerns.

“Our son is turning four soon. Rongrong had specifically put aside her work trips so as to spend the day with our son. We both eagerly look forward to a return of our beloved Rongrong, and pray that she returns in good health,” he said.

Meanwhile, Zhao Xia, attorney for Wang Man, said that Ms Wang was being subjected to lengthy interrogations and was experiencing heart problems.

“Though her situation is in control and she is out of danger, it is no longer appropriate to detain Wang Man,” the lawyer said.

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