Chinese Feminists Told Banners Marking Historic Feminist March 'Not Allowed'

2017-03-09
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Ten activists don historical costumes to mark a historic feminist march for International Women's Day in Guangzhou, March 6, 2017.
Ten activists don historical costumes to mark a historic feminist march for International Women's Day in Guangzhou, March 6, 2017.
Photo courtesy of an activist

A group of feminists was questioned by security guards at the People's Park in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou after they tried to re-enact a historic march celebrating International Women's Day 100 years ago.

The group, who also posted a video titled, "The feminist revolution mustn't lose touch with its roots" dressed in clothing from the May Fourth (1919) era of China's history to re-enact a gathering of early Chinese feminists in the park.

But when they showed up at the park on Monday to shoot that part of the video, they were questioned by security guards, they told RFA.

"In 1924, this was the starting point for a demonstration organized by [revolutionary] He Xiangyi on March 8," a participant who gave only the nickname Jianhu told RFA.

"We stumbled across accounts of this event recently, and we wanted to commemorate the spirit of our feminist forebears, and remember our history," she said.

"Ten of us put on costumes from the May Fourth era [to do this]," Jianhu told RFA on Thursday. "We had planned to take a group photo in the park, but then some ... security cars came over and asked us what we were doing."

"We told them we were taking a graduation photo," Jianhu said. "We also had slogans printed out, that we were going to hold up as banners."

The slogans read: "Stay on the road to women's rights!" "They were woke 100 years ago," and "100 years on, and we're still sleeping."

She said the security guards had banned them from displaying the banners, however.

"They said we can't display banners, even before we had taken them out," Jianhu said.

The women moved to a less conspicuous part of the park, before reading out a section of He Xiangyi's 1924 speech titled "To my female compatriots" and taking some photographs.

Student costumes

A fellow participant who gave only the nickname Titika said the women had chosen the costumes of students from the time of the May Fourth movement, which was sparked by popular anger at the Treaty of Versailles and the concession of a huge tract of Chinese territory to Japan.

"We were dressed up in the costumes of students, but wherever we went, security guards would come out and ask us what we were doing," Titika said. "We weren't allowed to display banners, nor to shout slogans."

"We couldn't even take photographs," she said. "But we saw a news item on the bus saying that women wearing traditional Chinese costume could get free entry into Guangzhou parks on March 8 for International Women's Day."

"They were allowed to take photos and even sing and dance, so why weren't we allowed to take photos in our student costumes? This incident has left a deep impact on me."

The group's video showed them holding the banners, wearing long dark robes and historical school uniforms.

"For many people, 'women' is still regarded as a derogatory term, and the struggle for women's rights that March 8 represents is gradually being forgotten," the voice-over says.

"This year, in Guangzhou, a group of young women once more trod the path to women's rights that is nearly a century old."

Two years ago, five feminists were detained for five weeks on public order charges for planning an anti-sexual harassment campaign for International Women's Day in 2015.

This year, China's internet censors shuttered the social media accounts of the Women's Voices website for 30 days spanning the festival.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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Anonymous Reader

The only banners the one-party state allows are those that eulogize the Chinese Communist Party. Banners are not allowed to praise women unless they are all communist party members.

Mar 15, 2017 03:40 PM

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