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Home > Uncategorised > China: Ahead of March 8, Women’s Rights Activists Detained in Several (...)

China: Ahead of March 8, Women’s Rights Activists Detained in Several Cities

Monday 9 March 2015, by siawi3



BEIJING — China detained at least 10 women’s rights activists over the weekend to forestall a nationwide campaign against sexual harassment on public transportation that would overlap with International Women’s Day, according to human rights advocates and associates of the detained activists.

At least five of those detained were still being held on Sunday evening, while the others had been released after being interrogated. All were female except for one pre-operative transgender woman, who was among those questioned and allowed to leave.

The women still in detention on Sunday evening live in the eastern metropolises of Beijing, Guangzhou and Hangzhou and had timed the start of the antiharassment campaign to coincide with International Women’s Day on Sunday, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an advocacy group based outside China that had posted on Twitter about the detentions.

“Ask Beijing & Guangzhou police: Is it a crime to speak out about sexual harassment in China?” the group said in a Twitter post early Sunday. Hours later, the group said it had learned of another activist, Wu Rongrong, who had been detained by the police in Hangzhou and was still being held.

Ms. Wu, 30, has been in police custody since Saturday. Like some of the other women detained, she has worked to combat discrimination based on gender or H.I.V./AIDS. She founded a women’s center in Hangzhou last year.

Ms. Wu and the others detained have all supported or worked with Yirenping, a nonprofit group with offices throughout China that advocates for equal rights for people with hepatitis, H.I.V./AIDS and disabilities, said a friend of the women who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of official reprisal.

On Friday evening, police officers in Beijing detained Li Tingting, who works under the pseudonym of Li Maizi. Ms. Li has been known in advocacy circles since she started a campaign in 2012 to push officials to build more public toilets for women. She was then a 22-year-old student. Also on Friday, an activist in Guangzhou, Zheng Churan, was detained by the police. The homes of Ms. Li and Ms. Zheng were both searched.

The two other women being detained were Wei Tingting and Wang Man, both in Beijing.

“We’ve always thought the country supports equal rights for women,” said Wang Qiushi, a lawyer representing Ms. Wei. “Speaking as a lawyer, this act is beyond our imagination and has shocked us.”

Mr. Wang said that he and other lawyers had tried to obtain information from the police at Haidian Police Station in western Beijing, where Ms. Wei and two others were being held, but that the police had refused to say anything.

A woman answering the telephone at the police station denied that any of the activists were being held there.

Most or all of the women were working to mobilize a nationwide campaign against sexual harassment on subways and other public transportation, their friends said. People taking part in the campaign were supposed to put antiharassment stickers on public transportation vehicles. The friends said the detentions were obviously a coordinated effort by the police across three cities to stifle the campaign.

“The attack this time is a big deal for us because the people who have been taken away formed the growing core of our movement these last few years,” said a young woman in Beijing who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also out of fear of official retribution. “They are the core strength of the women’s activist movement.”

The detentions began on the second day of the annual meeting in Beijing of the National People’s Congress, a nominal legislature that is supposed to represent, under the authoritarian system of the Chinese Communist Party, civic participation in political decision-making.

Since taking power in late 2012, Xi Jinping, the president and party leader, has clamped down on grass-roots activism and civic discourse in China, making it harder for many nonprofit groups to do their work.

Officials on Friday ordered Chinese websites to delete a hugely popular online documentary about China’s deadly air pollution, “Under the Dome,” that had been produced and financed by one of the country’s most famous journalists, Chai Jing. Another veteran female journalist, Fan Ming, had directed the film and had worked with Ms. Chai for many years at the main state television network, China Central Television. Ms. Fan had been a main producer on Ms. Chai’s investigative news reports. Both had left the network recently.

Their documentary was released online at the end of February and got hundreds of millions of views on Chinese websites within days. It became the subject of news stories around the globe. Many Chinese praised it, saying it shed light on a subject that was a source of great anxiety for many people in the country. The new environment minister, Chen Jining, was among its most vocal supporters, saying the film evoked “Silent Spring,” the landmark 1962 American environmental book.

But on Saturday, after other officials had ordered the ban, Mr. Chen made no mention of the documentary at a news conference in Beijing.

The New York Times reported last month that an examination of corporate records in China revealed that women make up fewer than one in 10 board members at the country’s top 300 companies, less than the equivalent in the United States and Europe. Women hold only two of 25 seats on the Communist Party’s ruling Politburo.

Beijing was the site of the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women, held in 1995. Decades ago, Mao Zedong said women “hold up half the sky.”