Rights Work Takes Its Toll

Two of China's netizen activists, He Peirong and Fan Yanqiong, speak about struggles they've faced after discussing controversial topics online.
2012-03-20
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Chinese netizen activists He Peirong (l) and Fan Yanqiong (r).
RFA

He Peirong, known online by her nickname @pearlher, first came to the attention of Chinese netizens in February 2010 after she made the first attempt by a concerned individual to visit beleaguered rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who is being held under house arrest along with his mother, wife and daughter in Shandong province. She has since been detained, beaten, questioned, robbed and placed under surveillance numerous times.

"[Chen's] situation crosses a lot of lines for me, because it also drags in a very old lady and a very young child. To me, this is totally unacceptable."

"I am very unhappy [about the way the authorities have treated me] because I never criticized the government or the system. I have had 'chats' with state security police and I constantly face the threat of detention or of surveillance. I feel a huge amount of psychological pressure. I have a lot more gray hairs now."

"[The wives of jailed dissidents] don't have their husbands by their side, and yet they have to face up to all sorts of pressure in their daily lives from their economic circumstances, from raising their children, at work, and so on. I think that they are amazing."

Fan Yanqiong, a Fujian-based blogger, was jailed after writing online about suspicions surrounding the death of local woman Yan Xiaoling, whose mother said she was gang-raped by local officials. After being sentenced to two years in prison on charges of defaming police, Fan was released on medical parole in August 2010. She says she now spends most of her time helping her own mother appeal against her forced eviction by the authorities.

"My mother spends all day, every day outside the gates of the municipal government offices. She was dragged away by a gang of thugs in a totally barbarous manner. I haven't had a father for a long time, and I feel my mother's life is very tough indeed. She is the target of such discrimination, and we feel totally hopeless. When I am helping her with the lawsuit, I come across lots of other victims too. They have lost all their money and they can barely speak clearly. I have seen them at first hand and I really feel for them."

"The hardest thing of all is that when you try to help other people, the government starts to put pressure on you to stop, and you can lose your liberty at any time. There were more than a dozen people implicated at the time that I was arrested, and I had a nervous breakdown. My health is terrible."

"I am a pretty strong person, and I often tell people that I don't fear anything. But internally, I am very weak. Now that I'm talking to you, I want to cry. No one cares about me. I think I am so stupid because I have hurt myself and my actions have affected my daughter."

Reported by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.