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Chinese Women Who Fight for Human Rights Face Reprisals from Party: Group

"The Chinese government has intensified suppression of women’s rights advocates, including NGOs advocating for women’s rights, in recent years," the report said.

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Wang Xiaoli, a women's rights activist from the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu, in undated photo. RFA

Women who campaign for human rights in China face reprisals from the ruling Chinese Communist Party, including enforced disappearances,arbitrary detention, sexual abuse and torture, an overseas rights group has said.

Since the death of rights activist Cao Shunli in a police detention center five years ago, women who challenge official abuse of power are still in a vulnerable situation, the overseas based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network said, in a report released ahead of International Women’s Day on Friday.

“The Chinese government has intensified suppression of women’s rightsadvocates, including NGOs advocating for women’s rights, in recent years,” the report said.

It said activist Jin Shunnü died in October 2018 in detention on charges related to “national security,” but when her family filed a complaint in January calling on Fushan city authorities to investigate, officials refused to give the family any explanation.

When the killers of women in custody are brought to justice, theirsentences can be relatively light, the report said, citing the prison terms handed down to seven officials convicted over Li Shulian’s 2009 death by torture in an extralegal “black jail” in Longkou, Shandong.

Cao died aged 52 on March 14, 2014 after she was denied medical treatment for months while in detention, according to her brother and fellow activists who blasted the government for using medical care as leverage to silence critics.

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“The Chinese government has intensified suppression of women’s rights advocates, including NGOs advocating for women’s rights, in recent years,” the report said. Pixabay

Her lawyers had made repeated requests for her release to allow her toreceive medical treatment, but no action was taken until she was seriously ill. She suffered from tuberculosis in both her lungs, cirrhosis of the liver, and uterine fibroids.

Cao was detained as she set out for Switzerland to take part in a U.N.Human Rights Council review in September 2013.

Since then, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has targeted civilorganizations including the Beijing Yirenping Center, a public health and anti-discrimination NGO, the Weizhiming Women’s Center in Hangzhou, which had run campaigns against gender discrimination, violence against women and sexual harassment, and the Beijing Zhongze Women’s Legal Counseling Service Center, which provided legal assistance to women, CHRD said.

“While the #MeToo movement sparked a conversation in 2018, mainlyonline, about sexual harassment in China, it also led to some backlash and widespread censorship,” the group said.

“Authorities also shut down Sina Weibo and Tencent WeChat accounts ofthe group Feminist Voices in March,” it said.

Far fewer feminist voices in 2019

Wang Xiaoli, a women’s rights activist from the eastern province of Jiangsu, said she had noticed far fewer feminist voices on China’s tightly controlled internet on this year’s International Women’s Day than in previous years.

She said a petition calling for better rights for women had appeared on social media, but had garnered scant support.

“A few dozen people signed, but then after that, nobody signed at all, that I could see,” Wang said. “There are so few people signing petitions these days; a lot of feminists are afraid to express their views.”

china women, human rights
“While the #MeToo movement sparked a conversation in 2018, mainly online, about sexual harassment in China, it also led to some backlash and widespread censorship,” the group said. Pixabay

“It’s not like it was a few years ago; the suppression by the ChineseCommunist Party is very harsh,” she said. “Nobody’s going to stand there holding placards … because that would get you detained for ‘picking quarrels and stirring up trouble’.”

Wang said that government crackdowns appeared to be working, as veryfew people are now willing to express support for women’s rights in China now.

Rights lawyer Wang Shengsheng said the administration of President XiJinping, who is currently serving an indefinite term in office, regards anyone who campaigns for anyone’s rights as a threat.

“It doesn’t matter what rights you are fighting for; they will regard your actions as illegal,” Wang Shengsheng said. “There are now very tight controls on freedom of thought and expression, whether it is to do with feminism or something else.”

“[They are] preventing [civil rights] from developing, to the extent of sending them into reverse.”

According to CHRD, an estimated 976 activists and dissidents are currently under enforced disappearance, pretrial detention, or in prison in China.

Many women who have tried to defend human rights in China have facedpersecution, including arbitrary detention, torture and inhumanepunishment by medical deprivation, the group said, citing the cases oflawyer Li Yuhan, activists Liu Ping, Li Xiaoling and Su Changlan and citizen journalists Ding Lingjie and Wang Jing, among many others.

“Persecuted women [rights activists] often face sexual harassment,” it said. “Several women … spoke out in 2018, accusing policemen of subjecting them to degrading treatment by forcing them to undergo strip searches,and sexual harassment to intimidate them.”

House arrest for lawyer’s wife

CHRD said Xu Yan, wife of detained human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng,lawyer Sun Shihua and activist Zhang Lifang were among them.

Unidentified people wearing the red armbands of citizen security details in Beijing placed Xu under house arrest on Friday, she told RFA.

chinese wpmen, human rights
“The Chinese government has intensified suppression of women’s rights advocates, including NGOs advocating for women’s rights, in recent years,” the report said. Pixabay

Xu, who is now under the guard of around a dozen police officers andneighborhood officials at her Beijing apartment, said her surveillance had been ordered by the Shijingshan district state security police.

“I just went out to the corridor and found several people sitting in the corridor,” she said. “They wouldn’t let me go out.”

“There were about 12 of them blocking the corridor … so I didn’t go outtoday,” Xu said. “These people are on duty are on duty 24 hours a day, all through the night.”

The move comes after Xu wrote last month to Li Zhanshu, chairman of the National People’s Congress of China, and several vice-chairmen andsecretary-generals, urging them to strengthen supervision of the judiciary.

ALSO READ: South-East Asian Women on Women’s Day Call for Equal Opportunities, Lament War and Repression

Other wives, sisters and mothers of detained prisoners of conscience have also faced harsh retaliation from authorities, CHRD said, citing the beating and detention last December of Huang Qi’s mother Pu Wenqing, 86.

“To silence her, police detained Pu in a secret location for more than one month and only released her into house arrest as her health seriously deteriorated,” CHRD said.

Authorities have also hit back at campaigning women and their childrenwith detention, abduction, housing eviction, restricted movement, banned travel abroad, and constant surveillance and monitoring, it said. (RFA)

Next Story

Tech Giant Google Slammed over Human Rights, China Project by Top ex-official

The tech giant has been accused of "union busting" and retaliatory behaviour after it sacked the employees for allegedly violating the company's data security policies

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A top-notch former executive has blasted Google over its handling of human rights at its offices, alleging that he was sidelined when raised questions over the tech giant’s search engine project called “Dragonfly” for the China market.

Ross LaJeunesse, now a Democratic candidate for US Senate in Maine who worked as Google’s Head of International Relations, wrote on Medium that no longer can massive tech companies like Google be permitted to operate relatively free from government oversight.

“The company’s motto used to be aDon’t be evil.’ Dragonfly was only one of several developments that concerned those of us who still believed in the mantra of ‘Don’t be evil’. I was also concerned that Cloud executives were actively pursuing deals with the Saudi government, given its horrible record of human rights abuses,” LaJeunesse said in the post on Thursday.

In December 2017, Google announced the establishment of the Google Center for Artificial Intelligence in Beijing.

“A colleague was suddenly re-assigned to lead the policy team discussions for Dragonfly. As someone who consistently advocated for a human rights-based approach, I was being sidelined from the on-going conversations on whether to launch Dragonfly,” the Google executive added.

“Just when Google needed to double down on a commitment to human rights, it decided to instead chase bigger profits and an even higher stock price”.

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai (Now the Alphabet CEO) told US regulators last year that Google had ano plans’ to launch the censored search engine project “right now”. The company which is blocked in China abandoned the project.

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FILE -Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during the keynote address of the Google I/O conference in Mountain View, Calif., May 7, 2019. VOA

However, some Google employees reportedly believe they found evidence that Google’s plans to launch Dragonfly in China are still ongoing.

LaJeunesse also slammed Google for its handling of human rights – an issue that has led to internal advocacy within the company.

“It was no different in the workplace culture. Senior colleagues bullied and screamed at young women, causing them to cry at their desks. At an all-hands meeting, my boss said, ‘now you Asians come to the microphone too. I know you don’t like to ask questions’,” wrote LaJeunesse.

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He said: “I think the important question is what does it mean when one of America’s marque’ companies changes so dramatically. Is it the inevitable outcome of a corporate culture that rewards growth and profits over social impact and responsibility?”

The US government has launched a probe into Google over its labour practices following a complaint from employees who have been fired by the tech giant.

The tech giant has been accused of “union busting” and retaliatory behaviour after it sacked the employees for allegedly violating the company’s data security policies. (IANS)