Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, April 10, 2015

More on control of civil society in China

The Chinese feminists don't have an attention-grabbing name like Pussy Riot in Russia, but they've experienced at least as much persecution.

Taking Feminist Battle to China’s Streets, and Landing in Jail
The young Chinese feminists shaved their heads to protest inequality in higher education and stormed men’s restrooms to highlight the indignities women face in their prolonged waits at public toilets.

To publicize domestic violence, two prominent activists, Li Tingting and Wei Tingting, put on white wedding gowns, splashed them with red paint and marched through one of the capital’s most popular tourist districts chanting, “Yes to love, no to violence.”

Media-savvy, fearless and well-connected to feminists outside China, the young activists over the last three years have taken their righteous indignation to the streets, pioneering a brand of guerrilla theater familiar in the West but largely unheard-of in this authoritarian nation.

Now five of them — core members of China’s new feminist movement — sit in jail, accused of provoking social instability…

Now, as security agents from Beijing fan out across the country hunting down the volunteers who took part in the women’s theatrical protests, many young feminists have gone into hiding…

Despite government efforts to keep reporting of the crackdown out of the domestic news media, the jailing of the five women has not gone unnoticed here. Word has spread across college campuses, and more than 1,100 people took the risky step last week of adding their names to a petition demanding the women’s release.

Outside China, campaigners have used Facebook and Twitter to publicize the detainees’ plight, and Western governments have been issuing statements to protest their incarceration…

As international attention to the women’s case mounts, some rights advocates see echoes of the public relations maelstrom surrounding the female Russian dissident group, Pussy Riot, whose members were arrested in 2012 for their protests against President Vladimir V. Putin.

Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, said the five jailed feminists have drawn far more international attention than the scores of Chinese activists who have been detained during the previous two years of an intensified government drive against political dissent…

Analysts say the effort to quash China’s nascent feminist movement represents a dismal milestone in the Communist Party’s war on grass-roots activism, a campaign that has gained momentum since President Xi Jinping came to power…

But rights advocates say security officials were evidently alarmed by the women’s skillful use of social media to organize volunteers, their links to foreign organizations, and the inventive protests and flash mobs that often drew favorable coverage in the Chinese media…

Soon after coming to power in 1949, Mao Zedong outlawed forced marriages, prostitution and foot binding, and he introduced a groundbreaking marriage law that gave women the right to file for divorce. Women were considered equal to men, but only as a collective force for economic production, Ms. Zeng said. But in recent decades, as market economics took hold in China, unapologetic male chauvinism re-emerged, and with it, traditional notions of a woman’s role in the family. Women’s incomes have been falling compared with those of their male counterparts in recent years; just over 2 percent of Chinese women hold managerial positions; and all but two of the 25 Politburo members are men.

Many of the young activists, born in the 1980s and the coddled and well-educated offspring of China’s one-child policy, discovered in college that the Communist Party dictums on gender equality had become little more than window dressing…

Wei Tingting
Wei Tingting, 26, is the director of Ji’ande, an unregistered L.G.B.T. rights group in Beijing…

Ms. Wei co-directed early performances of "The Vagina Monologues" in Wuhan…

As a project manager at the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute, Ms. Wei helped stage an annual AIDS Walk on the Great Wall.

She was questioned… at a police station in Beijing on March 6 and is being held at a detention center there.

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