One of China's Feminist Five Denied Permission to Leave China Over 2015 Detention

china-rights.jpg Feminist activist Wu Rongrong holds a letter appealing to the Minister of Education to allow her to pursue graduate studies in Hong Kong, Aug. 23, 2017.
Photo courtesy of Wu Rongrong.

One of five Chinese feminists detained ahead of International Women's Day 2015 as they planned a public campaign against sexual harassment has been denied a permit to study in Hong Kong just one week before she is due to start a master's degree in the city.

Wu Rongrong's application for the necessary travel document has been delayed by the mainland Chinese authorities because she had previously been "a target of investigation by Beijing authorities," she told RFA.

Wu and fellow detainees Li Tingting, Wei Tingting, Wang Man, and Zheng Churan were released "on bail" in 2015 after being detained for several weeks on suspicion of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble."

Their detentions prompted an international outcry, as they had been planning a low-level campaign against the sexual harassment of women on public transport.

They were never charged with any crime, and Wu said she shouldn't have to face further restrictions.

"This was such a long time ago that there is no need for them to restrict me any longer," Wu said. "None of the four other feminists has been prevented from leaving the country, so I am very angry about this."

"I think the authorities are acting in a bizarre manner."

Wu said she hasn't even tried to return to her previous activism in a non-government organization since being released.

"There is no need for them to treat me this way," she said.

Wu said she had been informed of the decision with just one week left until the start of the fall semester.

Life endangered in jail

She will be unable to take up the place without the necessary immigration documents.

"The rules say that you should be able to get a permit in a week to 10 days, so I have asked the University of Hong Kong if I can register for study a week late," she said.

"I hope the authorities will process my application according to the rules."

Wu, who has been diagnosed with Hepatitis B, and who spent some of her detention in a police hospital, told RFA that her life was put in danger by her lack of access to needed medication while she was in detention.

Fellow women's rights activist Ye Haiyan said she has been under a travel ban since 2014, despite having previously traveled to a number of countries to pursue her activism.

She said Wu's attempt to keep a low profile since her release will have made little difference to the authorities' treatment of her, however.

"This has nothing to do with whether she has kept a low profile or not," Ye told RFA. "It's about what the local authorities have been ordered to do, and people like us can do nothing about that."

"Whenever there's a political movement of any kind, then the authorities have to do as they're told, and we have to cooperate with another round of oppression from them," she said.

"The situation is getting tougher and tougher these days, possibly because of the 19th Party Congress, and we are in a passive role," she said.

Meanwhile, a woman in the southern province of Guangdong who last year won a sex discrimination lawsuit against a restaurant chain, is now pursuing a lawsuit against the human resources department of her local government for failing to enforce laws against gender discrimination in job recruitment.

"These are national laws we have [against gender discrimination], and the human resources bureau isn't enforcing them," would-be trainee chef Gao Xiao's lawyer Chang Weiping told RFA.

'No women in the kitchen'

The Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court found in favor of Gao's discrimination lawsuit on appeal last September, ordering the Guangdong Huishijia Economic Development Co. to pay a fine of 2,000 yuan and issue a public apology in a newspaper.

But the company failed to comply, so the court printed part of a compulsory enforcement notice in Friday's Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper, ordering the company to make its apology, and to pay the cost of publication of the notice.

Gao, 29, had initially applied for 48,000 yuan in compensation, arguing that her failure to even be invited for interview as a trainee chef in 2014 was evidence of gender discrimination on the part of the company.

The company had told her the job was filled, before re-advertising it for "male applicants only,"

Gao filed her initial lawsuit with Guangzhou's Haizhu District People's Court in April 2016, after being rejected as an apprentice chef by the Haoxuan Hotel kitchen, which operates a "no women in the kitchen" policy, she told RFA.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party has promoted gender equality, at least in theory, since it came to power in 1949.

But campaigners say the reality is very different on the ground, and that discrimination still presents major obstacles for Chinese women, who face habitual workplace discrimination, harassment and domestic violence.

When Beijing hosted the Fourth World Conference on Women 20 years ago, the conference laid down a long-term program of improvements to the rights and opportunities offered to women and girls around the world, with requirements for governments to report back to the United Nations on the changes.

The Beijing Declaration pledged to "ensure equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all women and girls."

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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