'As a Woman, I Wanted to Stand Up And Run For District People's Congress'

2017-03-17
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Chinese election activist Li Biyun (C) seated on a wheelchair surrounded by supporters outside the court in Foshan city, Guangdong, Sept. 6, 2013.
Chinese election activist Li Biyun (C) seated on a wheelchair surrounded by supporters outside the court in Foshan city, Guangdong, Sept. 6, 2013.
Photo courtesy of a Li Biyun supporter.

An outspoken rights activist from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong is under house arrest enforced by round-the-clock shifts by state security police, who are preventing her from leaving her home to visit a doctor.

"There are 10 of them working each shift right now, with three or four unlicensed vehicles and two regular cars," Li Biyun said from her home in Guangzhou's Shunde district on Friday.

"The annual parliament is over, but they are still preventing me from going out," she said. "I'm allowed out in my neighborhood, but I'm not allowed to go anywhere else."

Li said the authorities have confiscated her ID card, making it hard for her to carry out simple tasks like buying a train or plane ticket, or accessing public services such as healthcare.

"My health has been poor with old injuries that haven't healed properly" Li said. "It's not the sort of medical problem that can be fixed just like that."

"My relatives want to take me to see a doctor, but I can't go to register at the hospital because they still have my ID card, and they won't give it back to me," she said.

Li suffered serious injuries after being thrown by police from a moving car following her release from a detention center, where she was held for "breaking election rules" for seven months before being released following her trial.

She has also reported multiple injuries from torture in detention last year. After her release, police put pressure on the hospital treating her to discharge her before she had fully healed, Li told RFA.

After the incident, Li took temporary refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Aug. 31 to evade police who were tailing her.

Li told RFA in an interview on International Women's Day that women are particularly vulnerable in today's China.

"The Chinese government says that men and women are equal, but in reality, we women don't have any rights at all," she said. "For example, the rules say that men in rural areas get access to their share of land at the age of 18, while women can only get hold of land by going through the back door."

"As a woman, I wanted to stand up and become a district People's Congress delegate, but the authorities accused me of disrupting the elections," she said. "I have been in jail, I have had threats against my person, and my ID card has been taken and not returned to me."

"So, no, as a woman, I don't feel equal."

Meanwhile, Li Biyun's sister Li Caiyun said she has also been placed under police surveillance, upsetting her family life.

"There are people following me every day, two of them," Li Caiyun said. "They won't let me get in a car or on a bus, or any form of transport."

"There are police officers but also hired thugs from criminal gangs," she said. "This is affecting my kid, who doesn't like seeing them."

"My kid asked me this morning: why can't you sue them, Mommy?"

In December 2014, Li, 48, was dumped at high speed by the side of the road after being jailed on public order charges during which she alleged torture at the hands of police.

A court in Guangdong's Shunde city found Li guilty of "obstructing civic duties" after she tried to stand as an independent candidate in elections to her district People's Congress.

Since her detention, she has been coughing up blood, and has had difficulty walking due to leg injuries sustained during her "release" from detention.

In 2011, Li joined dozens of political activists across China in a campaign to file applications to stand for election to district-level National People's Congress (NPC) bodies, in spite of official warnings that there is "no such thing" as an independent candidate.

Li's candidacy enjoyed widespread popular support after her earlier advocacy work on behalf of local residents whose farmland had been sold off by local government for development.

Apart from a token group of cosmetic "democratic parties" that never oppose or criticize the ruling party, opposition political parties are banned in China, and those who set them up are frequently handed lengthy jail terms.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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