Chinese Police Step Up Pressure on Feminist Five

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Originally published by Radio Free Asia on September 23, 2015

One of the five Chinese feminists detained for planning an anti-sexual harassment campaign and since released on “bail” said on Tuesday that the authorities in Beijing are trying to make her homeless, as the government continues its months-long crackdown on nongovernment groups.

As Chinese President Xi Jinping began a state visit to the United States amid a volley of calls for the release of jailed critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, Li Tingting issued her own statement calling on the authorities to leave her alone.

“My landlord told me recently that they received a phone call from the residential committee and a police officer surnamed Guo telling them to evict me from the apartment I am living in,” Li wrote.

“They said my case involved matters of state security.”

Li, Wu Rongrong, Wei Tingting, Wang Man, and Zheng Churan were released “on bail” in April after being detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” on March 6, two days ahead of International Women’s Day.

The five women, whose detention prompted an international outcry, are still officially regarded as criminal suspects, and have written to the United Nations protesting police restrictions on their movements and calling for the charges against them to be dropped.

“I don’t know why the police are still concerning themselves with me even now. Allll I do is campaign for gender equality and the rights of women, and sometimes work for the interests of minority groups,” Li wrote.

“What does [this] work have to do with state security?” she added. “Are they trying to make sure I have nowhere to live?”

‘Taking action’

Li told RFA in a later interview she believes the police have to be seen to be “taking action” against dissidents during Xi’s trip to the U.S.

“The state security police are usually pretty civilized, and they don’t usually use threats or things like that,” Li said. “It’s a matter of eating a meal with them, or drinking tea.”

“But I think they have got a bit worried with Xi Jinping’s trip to the U.S., and they are maybe worried that I’ll try to organize some kind of action,” she said.

“They have made an appointment to eat dinner with me on Sept. 25,” she added. “I think it’s a question of orders coming down from on high.”

Fellow activist Wu Rongrong said the move shows how nervous the police are at this time.

“I think that this shows just how terrified they are,” Wu said. “At least [Li’s] landlord has behaved very well, and won’t refuse to rent the apartment to her as a result of this.”

Many groups harassed

According to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, which collates reports from rights groups inside China, the move is the latest in a series of moves by the authorities targeting nongovernment groups working on disability and health rights, women’s and LGBT rights, and other anti-discrimination issues.

“Several staff members of these organizations have been detained and are facing imminent trial,” the group said in a statement released at the start of Xi’s trip.

It said others, like the five feminists, still face criminal charges after being released on bail.

The group said it has documented more than 1,800 cases of arbitrary detention and torture of human rights defenders since Xi took over the presidency in March 2013.

Continuing obstacles for women

China’s communist government has promoted gender equality, at least in theory, since it came to power in 1949, when it garnered broad popular support over its policies on educating women and ending repressive practices like foot-binding and forced marriage.

But campaigners say the reality today is very different, and that Chinese women now face habitual workplace discrimination, harassment, and domestic violence.

When Beijing hosted the Fourth World Conference on Women 20 years ago, the conference laid down a long-term program of improvements to the rights and opportunities offered to women and girls around the world, with requirements for governments to report back to the United Nations on the changes.

The Beijing Declaration pledged to “ensure equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all women and girls.”

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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