Feminist and LGBT activist held for 3 months for sticking up posters of ‘Bridge Man’

Guo Yi was detained in Beijing as she tried to put a poster of Peng Lifa in a Beijing toilet, a rights group says
By Sun Zhe for RFA Mandarin
2023.02.06
Feminist and LGBT activist held for 3 months for sticking up posters of ‘Bridge Man’ The Twitter account @weiquanwang posted about the arrest of Guo Yi.
Credit: RFA screenshot from Twitter

Authorities in China have been holding feminist and LGBTQ+ activist Guo Yi for more than three months after she stuck up posters repeating the protest slogans hung from a Beijing traffic overpass in October by Peng Lifa, known as the "Bridge Man" protester, a rights group has reported.

Peng, who hung two protest banners – one of which called for the removal of Chinese leader Xi Jinping – on a Beijing flyover on the eve of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's 20th National Congress has been widely hailed as a hero on social media and by overseas activists. 

"Guo Yi was arrested on or around Oct. 20, 2022, when she took a poster of Bridge Man Peng Lifa she had made to a toilet to post it,"  the Weiquanwang rights website reported. "Bridge Man posters were later also found at her home, and we believe that she has been [formally] arrested now."

Guo, a graduate of Tsinghua University's School of Economics and Management, hails from the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where she won a top liberal arts scholarship to study in Beijing. She has been involved in activism to promote women’s rights and other social issues. Guo, also known as Edith, had also penned a screenplay titled "The Way of the Vagina,” the group said.

Her apparent detention comes amid an ongoing crackdown on the "white paper" protests of late November 2022, which were sparked by a fatal lockdown fire in Xinjiang's regional capital Urumqi, with dozens of young activists, mostly women, detained across China in recent weeks.

‘Citizens, not slaves’

The Bridge Man protest sparked a slew of protests and rallies on university campuses outside China, although participants said they risked bringing trouble down on the heads of their families back home if the police found out they had taken part.

One of his banners read: "Remove the traitor-dictator Xi Jinping!" while another called for: "Food, not COVID-19 tests. Freedom, not lockdowns. Reforms, not the Cultural Revolution. Elections not leaders," adding: "Dignity, not lies. Citizens, not slaves."

In December 2022, Weiquanwang said police had arrested Nanchang-based artist Xiao Liang after he painted a portrait of Peng Lifa and posted it on Twitter.

Veteran rights activist Zhou Fengsuo, who heads the New York-based group Human Rights in China, said Guo hadn't committed any crime.

"Guo Yi's actions should have been protected by her civil rights, because she did no more than express her mind," Zhou told Radio Free Asia. "She has committed no crime, and this was an entirely personal action."

"The regime has already held her for 100 days, every day of which is a crime against her," he said. "She should be released immediately."

He called on Tsinghua alumni to speak out on Guo's behalf, in the hope of gaining an earlier release.

New generation

He said Guo’s voice represented a new generation who dared to speak out against the Chinese Communist Party, and as such were the main hope for change in China.

Guo was last seen at a screening she held at her home of a film shortly after the Oct. 1 National Day holiday, according to a Jan. 31 article on the Women4China Stack Exchange page signed by Wen Xin.

"Everyone sensed that something was going to happen, but nobody knew what Edith was going to do," said the article, describing Guo as "skinny with short red hair ... appearing agile enough to carry the weight of the whole world."

"After graduating, she went on to organize cultural activities for migrant women workers," the article said, adding that she had once hoped to live in the southern city of Shenzhen.

It said Guo had also been writing and staging her feminist screenplay, and had gone out of her way to enlist a trans woman as one of the actors. It said her connection to the LGBTQ+ community likely made her more vulnerable to mistreatment by the authorities.

"When the police went to her apartment to search for the Bridge Man posters, they must have seen the rainbow flag in the room," the article said. 

"This would have made the police even more certain that she was a 'reactionary' - given the close attention they've been paying to women's rights and LGBT issues during the arrests and interrogations that followed the white paper protests."

The article said Guo's family and lawyers have remained silent, and that an application for bail for her had been unsuccessful.

"Edith did nothing wrong; she was a ray of red as the revolution spread. Keep fighting the good fight," the article said, quoting her Instagram signature.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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