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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.

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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

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

U.S. Government Human Rights Report Shows ‘Amber’ Warning Light Situation in Hong Kong

"Human rights issues included substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association [and] restrictions on political participation," the report said.

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The flags of Hong Kong (left) and its communist ruler China, in file photo. RFA

A U.S. government human rights report is ‘an amber light’ for the human rights situation in Hong Kong, with some of the city’s traditional freedoms under threat, commentators told RFA.

The State Department highlighted several areas of concern in its 2018Human Rights Report published last week, in particular, “encroachment” by the ruling Chinese Communist Party in Beijing on Hong Kong’s promised autonomy.

“Human rights issues included substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association [and] restrictions on political participation,” the report said.

The report cited multiple sources as saying that Chinese operativesmonitored some political activists, nongovernmental organizations(NGOs), and academics who criticized Beijing’s policies in Hong Kong,which is supposed to be separate legal jurisdiction under the terms of the “one country, two systems” framework.

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The move came as the Hong Kong Journalists Association warned ofincreasing self-censorship among local journalists, often among mediaoutlets with business interests in mainland China. VOA

It also pointed to cross-border detentions and abductions, citing thedisappearance of businessman Xiao Jianhua and the cross-border rendition of Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai, who is a Swedish citizen.

“Xiao’s and other abductions show the Chinese Central Government’swillingness to act contrary to the rule of law and undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy,” the report said.

It said Hong Kong and Chinese officials had restricted, or sought to restrict, the right to express or report on political protest and dissent, particularly the notion of independence for Hong Kong.

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“But if Hong Kong’s human rights situation continues to deteriorate in the next couple of years … for example, if we see more kidnappings, then I think the U.S. is very likely to abolish Hong Kong’s status as a separate trading territory.” VOA

The trial of dozens of protesters, including key figures, after the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement on public order charges had”raised the cost of protesting government policies and led to concerns the government was using the law to suppress political dissent.”

The report also cited the jailing of two disqualified lawmakers, Sixtus Leung and Yao Wai-ching, last June for four weeks on “unlawful assembly” charges, following scuffles with Legislative Council security guards in 2016.

It said the banning of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party(HKNP) last September was one example, while the disqualification of six pro-democracy lawmakers for “improperly” taking their oaths of allegiance was another.

The U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) voiced concern at thetime over the ban, which relied on colonial-era legislation under theSocieties Ordinance that originally targeted criminal organizations, or “triads.”

“The UK does not support Hong Kong independence, but Hong Kong’s highdegree of autonomy and its rights and freedoms are central to its way of life, and it is important they are fully respected,” the statement said.

‘An amber light’

Hong Kong political commentator Sang Pu said the State Departmentreport had struck a note of warning to the international community.

“I don’t think this is a red light, but it is an amber light,” Sang told RFA, adding that a further deterioration could affect Hong Kong’s international reputation as an open port.

“But if Hong Kong’s human rights situation continues to deteriorate in the next couple of years … for example, if we see more kidnappings, then I think the U.S. is very likely to abolish Hong Kong’s status as a separate trading territory.”

Another red flag would be the enactment of sedition, subversion andnational security laws, as mandated by Article 23 of the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, Sang said.

Meanwhile, a national law passed by Beijing in September 2017“criminalizes any action mocking the Chinese national anthem and requires persons attending public events to stand at attention and sing the anthem in a solemn manner during its rendition,” the State Department report said, adding that Hong Kong will soon legislate to make the law apply in its own jurisdiction.

It also pointed to the effective expulsion from Hong Kong, the first since the handover, of Financial Times Asia news editor Victor Mallet, after he hosted at event at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club featuring HKNP founder Andy Chan as the speaker.

The move came as the Hong Kong Journalists Association warned ofincreasing self-censorship among local journalists, often among mediaoutlets with business interests in mainland China.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Alvin Yeung, who also heads Hong Kong’s CivicParty, said he shares concerns over Hong Kong’s reputation.

“Our most important competitor, Singapore, has free trade agreements with pretty much the rest of the world, and Hong Kong is lagging behind,” Yeung said.

Also Read: North Korean Authorities Ramping Up The Levels of Strictness at Weekly Self-Criticism Sessions

“Our international image is probably that Hong Kong wouldn’t be capable of such a thing,” he said. “Other countries might not be interested in pursuing free trade agreements with Hong Kong, because there are no benefits to doing so.”

But pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung said Hong Kong remains a free society.

“We have a very high level of human rights protection,” Leung said. “I hope they aren’t going to suppress our economic freedom under the guise of human rights.” (RFA)