Chinese Feminists Protest Gag Order on Social Media Account

2017-02-21
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An undated photo of Chinese feminist activist Li Tingting, one of five women's rights activists still under surveillance after their 2015 release on bail.
An undated photo of Chinese feminist activist Li Tingting, one of five women's rights activists still under surveillance after their 2015 release on bail.
AFP

The founders and supporters of a feminist website in China have hit out at the closure of its social media accounts.

The Gender in China website had two of its accounts on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo deleted, prompting a flurry of criticism from prominent women's rights activists.

The site's social media editor, Xiong Jing, told RFA she believes the site's recent criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump's attitude to women may be behind the move.

"We have had large numbers of posts deleted in the past, but this is the first time we have been completely prevented from posting," Xiong said.

"The manager at Sina Weibo said we had broken the law, or regulations, and that we were being prevented from posting for 30 days, but they weren't very specific."

"We are guessing that it's because we sent out some tweets calling for a women's strike action against Trump," Xiong said.

The group's response to their ban on Sina Weibo was to complain about it via a separate account.

"We sent out that tweet this morning about the gag order, and then the whole account was deleted," she said.

Widening crackdown


Beijing-based artist and feminist activist Ye Haiyan said the move is more likely just part of an ever-widening crackdown on rights activists and human rights lawyers nationwide, however.

"I saw that Gender in China had come in for a lot of trolling from the 50-cent brigade recently," Ye said, in a reference to pro-government commentators paid to support the ruling Chinese Communist Party on social media.

"I thought then that feminists would be next in line for persecution," she said.

"It's happening in layers. Once they've eliminated one area [of civil society activism], they move on to eliminate the next," she said.

Li Tingting, one of five feminists detained for five weeks on public order charges for planning an anti-sexual harassment campaign for International Women's Day in 2015, said the government is continuing to shut down any independent comment on the Chinese internet.

"There is considerable momentum around the women's rights movement, and the public opinion supervision authorities have been censoring it ferociously," Li said.

"Now they are bringing in additional measures and stepping up control," she said.

She said the government's attitude to Donald Trump has little to do with the gagging of Gender in China.

"We have found that even saying stuff like this isn't allowed, so I think this is definitely part of an overall clampdown across the board," Li said.

Public awareness campaign

Li was detained for five weeks along with fellow activists Wei Tingting, Wang Man, Zheng Churan,and Wu Rongrong, after they planned a public transport awareness campaign to combat sexual harassment.

The five women, whose detention prompted an international outcry, are still not allowed to leave their hometowns without police approval, and still have the charges hanging over them although their lawyers say they broke no law.

Jiangsu-based women's rights activist Wang Xiaoli said that anyone who complains about having their social media accounts shut down in the crackdown could face further harassment.

"They will shut down your account as soon as you say anything, and if you still complain about it, they will put restrictions on your personal freedom," Wang said.

"Anything considered too sensitive is deleted immediately, especially as we are coming up to the annual parliamentary sessions [in Beijing]," she said. "Then, controls on online speech get even stricter."

The Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 in Beijing set out a blueprint for improvements to the rights and opportunities offered to women and girls around the world, as well as requiring governments to report back to the United Nations on progress in key areas.

The Beijing Declaration produced by the conference included a pledge to "ensure equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all women and girls."

Reported by Ding Wenqi for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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