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China: Campaigning for the Release of Female Activist Wang Lihong

The Chinese government has been arresting human right activists and political dissidents since February 2011 under the pretext of the Jasmine crack down. Many of the detainees have been released, including the prominent artist activist Ai Weiwei. However, a female activist, Wang Lihong has been detained for 117 days, with the court finally deciding to prosecute her last week.

A number of prominent bloggers have decided to break the silence and campaign for the release of Wang Lihong even though the political climate is still tense. Independent documentary maker, Ai Xiaoming has written a biography [zh] for Wang Lihong in her blog:

Who is Wang Lihong?

Wang Lihong

Wang Lihong

王荔蕻,1955年10月出生于青岛一个军队干部家庭,在北京读完小学和中学。1975年4月赴陕北延安插队,1978年10月至1982年7月就读于延安大学中文系。大学毕业后回到北京,在北京市某机关工作。1991年起离职,后下海经商。2008年王荔蕻退休后居家,有了更多时间上网并开始参与公益活动。

Wang Lihong was born in October 1955 in an army family in Qingtao and finished her elementary and secondary education in Beijing. She was sent to serve the rural society in Shaanxi in April 1975 and enrolled in the Chinese Department of Yanan University between October 1978 and July 1982. She returned back to Beijing upon graduation and worked there. She left her job in 1991 and became an entrepreneur. She retired in 2008 and started participating in social welfare activities online.

Wang was arrested on March 21, 2011, under the charge of “inciting social unrest”. Later in the official arrest document issued on April 22, 2011, the charge has been changed to “disturbing public transportation in a crowd”. Many believed that the police referred to the “surrounding gaze” flash mob action in Fujian, back in April 2010 (see below).

Below is an incomplete list of social activities that she has participated in since 2008.

  1. The police murder case of Yang Jia on July 1 2008. She visited Yang Jia's mother and interviewed her and blogged about Yang Jia's case.
  2. Together with another blogger, Temple Tiger, she helped the homeless people around Tienanmen square.
  3. The Deng Yujiao self defense murder case in May 2009. Wang Lihong travelled to Hubei to join the “surrounding gaze” flash mob in order to pressure the court for an open and fair ruling on Deng's case.
  4. On May 2009, Wang campaigned for a visit to petitioner, Yao Jing, who was seriously injured by local government officials from Linyi who tried to intercept her petition in Beijing. Together with a group of bloggers, Wang raised donation for Yao Jing's hospital and lawyer expenses.
  5. Campaigned for human rights lawyer Ni Yulan, who was prosecuted by Beijing authority soon after she was released from jail.
  6. Participated in the “surrounding gaze” flash mob action in support of the three Fujian netizens who was accused by local authorities for defamation in their citizen reports about a suspected rape case in March and April 2010.
  7. Celebrated the Nobel Prize award to Liu Xiaobo in October 2010. She was detained for two weeks and was under house arrest for several months.
  8. In March 2011, she visited two activists in a Henan detention center, Wang Yi who was sentenced to one year labour education for writing a tweet and Tian Xi, an AIDS activist.

Wang's citizen practice

During her detention, the police have asked Wang to make three promises for a probation arrangement: 1. to never meet sensitive people again; 2. to never travel to sensitive regions again; 3. to never get involve in other people's business again.

She refused to sign the document and made a statement instead (via @Wanyanhai [zh]):

我是一个有良知的人,我不能保证面对苦难时保持沉默,我不能保证面对像钱云会、唐福珍、李淑莲……这样的悲惨事件假装看不见。 假如我面对苦难和恶行保持沉默,那么下一个被恶行打倒的就是我自己。

I am a person with a conscience. I cannot guarantee that I can keep silence in front of others’ suffering. I can't guarantee that when I stand in front of Qian Yunhui, Tang Fucheng, Li Shuling… I can pretend that I do not see their miseries. If I keep silence in front of all these suffering and evil deeds, the next person beaten down by evilness will be myself.

Prominent citizen reporter, Tufuwugan, has encountered with Wang in various public incident since 2009 and he has written a blog post on his impressions of Wang [zh]:

是的,我和她两种风格,她总是据理抗争,一点妥协都不愿意。我和这帮流氓打交道总是嬉皮笑脸,胡说八道,玩世不恭的态度。正因为这种原因,我喜欢这个耿直疾恶如仇的大姐,喜欢她那种纯粹,喜欢她那种喜怒写在脸上的大姐,喜欢她的对人的真诚不做作。…她是一个真正的优秀公民,但她是那些没人性不是娘生的混蛋眼里的眼中钉肉中刺。

We have completely different styles. She likes to argue for the truth and never compromises while I like to hang around with a [flash mob] group and joke around. That's why I really like her righteousness and simple mindedness. She has everything written in her face and never lied about her feelings… She is a really engaging citizen and a thorn in the eyes of those mother f**kers.

What Tufu and Wang have been doing all these years has opened up a new political space in China. Ai Xiaoming wrote another blog post about the significance of Wang Lihong's citizen action [zh]:

但他们由于网络相识,开始身体力行地履行公民责任。全国敢于为底层发声的专家学者,也许屈指可数,但无数普通人以网民的身份参与,带来了新的政治。这正是这个国家不曾有过却已然开始的美好生活,公民通过网络连接起来,参与公共事务。无论地位身份如何,人们以网友的名义聚集在一起,无需相识,无需实名,只要有共同的关注。代之以无力感和麻木不仁的是,网友觉得无名小卒可以做一点事情,哪怕是为无辜入狱的网友喊一嗓子。“围观改变中国”的想象在推特上传扬,2010年,福建马尾法院开庭审理期间,法院门口聚集了来自全国各地的网民,而在网上凝聚起来的签名关注更达到五千之多,正是源于这样的想象。北京独立纪录片导演何杨的作品《赫索格的日子》详实记载了这场前所未有的政治景观,人们凭着朴素的信仰,自八九之后第一次(至少在我是第一次看到)走上街头高呼:言论无罪,自由万岁!

They get to know one and other through the Internet and collectively practice their citizen rights. We have so few experts and scholars who are willing to speak for the grassroots, but countless netizens participate [in grassroots movements] and create a new climate for the new politics. This is something beautiful that we have never had before: citizens are collected through the Internet and participate in public affair. Regardless of their background, they come together without knowing each others’ real identity. They are connected through common concern. They feel that they can do something to make change, little things such as yelling out for innocent netizens [who have been wrongly prosecuted]. “Surrounding gaze will change China” has become a belief spread across the Chinese Twittersphere. In 2010, outside the Fujian Mawei court, hundreds of netizens travelled across the country to present themselves on the spot and there have been more than 5,000 signatures collected for the campaign. He Yang's documentary work has recorded the whole political scene. This is the first time since the 1989 incident [Tiananmen Square] that I have seen people marching in the street, calling out “Speech is not a crime, Long live freedom!”

Free Wang Lihong

A blog, Free Wang Lihong [zh], a Facebook event page [zh] and a Google Group [zh] have been set up to collect articles and news reports about Wang and campaign for her release.

Back in Twitter, @weiquanwang has created a signature petition page [zh] for the release of Wang Lihong. Children's rights activist @zhaolianhai [zh] also helps collecting signatures via a Google Spread Sheet [zh].

Some netizens have claimed that they will surrender themselves to the police if the court sentences Wang to imprisonment. @tufuwugan [zh] is among one of them and there are more, he reports via Twitter:

刚才云南朱承志大哥来电话说,如果王荔蕻大姐被判,他准备去自首,叫我了解一下自首法律相关问题,是的,我也是这莫须有罪里的主犯,大姐如果有罪,我们也是有罪,我们会陪她有罪,不就是想通过治罪让人害怕吗?那我们主动接受你们的迫害,满足你们这帮畜生的迫害人的欲望。

Just now I received a phone call from Chu Chengzhi saying if Wang is founded guilty, he would surrender himself. He asked me to get some legal advice first. He is right. I was also involved similar “crimes”. If she is guilty, we are all guilty, let us all be guilty. They just want to terrify people through prosecution. Let's take the initiation to take your prosecution, to fulfill your animal thirst for prosecuting people.

Yin Longlong has written a poem, ‘Search for Wang Lihong‘ [zh] to pay his tribute to Wang. Below is the translation of the poem's first verse:

我寻找我的骄傲,一把锉
一根绳子。宫殿外面的海已经没过摩天大厦,公主和美人鱼
在上上世纪
我只寻找王荔蕻,告诉她王朝的飘零
告诉她我们选择了沉默是因为他们不值得聆听
告诉她泥土里有姊妹死亡的气息
告诉她
夏天牢房里的动物昆虫

I look for my pride, a steel file
A string. The sea has submerged the skyscrapers, princesses and mermaids outside the Emperor's hall
In the century before the last one
I look for Wang Lihong, only to tell her that the Dynasty is falling apart
Tell her that we have chosen silence because they are worthless to listen to
Tell her that there are still breathes under the earth of our dead sisters
Tell her
Animals and insects are inside the summer prison cell

3 comments

  • Thank you for bringing this to people’s attention and giving them the appropriate links to act in order to campaign for the release of Wang Lihong.

  • […] Lam recently posted details of Wang’s career and the campaign to release her at Global Voices Online, including a partial list of the causes with which she has been involved […]

  • […] Wang Lihong, one of many lesser known activists jailed in China, is facing imminent trial. The blog Free Wang Lihong has published a detailed English biography of her. Amnesty International has also issued an appeal to take action for her release. Tweet […]

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