By their actions, both have stood up to defend the most fundamental rights of a citizen: to be able to speak freely, seek justice without fear of official recrimination, and live with dignity.
What compelled them to do what they have chosen can perhaps be summarized by what Wang Lihong once said to her captors who wanted her to promise to stop helping others:
I am a person with conscience and I cannot guarantee that I will remain silent in the face of suffering. ... If I remain silent when confronted with suffering and wickedness, then I will be the next person beaten down by evil.
In 2008, instead of living out a comfortable retirement after working for the Beijing government and as a business woman, Wang Lihong chose to defend the rights of others. She began helping others by providing material and emotional support and by public action. She organized donation campaigns to help those neglected by society, visited the families of the victims of injustices. She wrote letters to officials to implore them to allow a group of detainees to spend Chinese New Year with their families, and joined a public protest to support three netizens in Fujian on trial for publicizing a rape and murder case. The last action cost her nine months of freedom, for what the authorities charged as “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” She was released on December 20, 2011.
Ni Yulan had worked in a commercial law firm in Beijing before she began her rights defense work in 2001. She helped petitioners and those forced out of their homes to make way for construction related to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. By the end of 2002, her license to practice law was revoked, and because of injuries sustained by police beatings, she could no longer walk without crutches. Her persistence in her rights defense work in the ensuing decade would land her in prison twice and render her homeless. On December 29, 2011, she was put on trial again, for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” and “fraud.” In January 2012, the Dutch government awarded Ni the Human Rights Defenders Tulip. The court, required by law to issue a ruling within one month and a half of the date it accepts a case, has issued no verdict as of March 8, 2012.
A female Chief Executive in Hong Kong?
On March 25, 2012, a 1,200-member Election Committee will select Hong Kong’s next Chief Executive. The two leading candidates, Henry Tang and Chun-ying Leung, are Beijing backed and supported. The sole female candidate, Regina Ip, dropped out of the race when she was unable to secure enough nominations to run in the 2012 election. Looking to the future, HRIC spoke with Hong Kongers for their thoughts about a female Chief Executive.
We invite you to see their answers in “Do You Think There Will Be a Female Chief Executive of Hong Kong?,” a new segment of the HRIC Word on the Street video series.
International Women’s Day
In 1908, the Socialist Party of America first designated March 8 as National Women’s Day to honor women garment workers protesting working conditions. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly called on member states to recognize March 8 as the UN Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace. International Women’s Day has become a day in which we all recognize the achievements of women not only around political and human rights, but in shaping our collective history.
The videos of Wang Lihong and Ni Yulan are available on HRIC’s YouTube channel at:
For more information on Wang Lihong, see:
- “Wang Lihong, Zheng Yichun, Bo Xiaomao Released,” December 20, 2011
- “Wang Lihong—Rights Defender,” China Rights Forum, 2011, no.3
- “Rights Defender Wang Lihong Sentenced to Nine Months,” September 9, 2011
- Wang Lihong’s Criminal Verdict, September 9, 2011 (Chinese)
- “Lawyers Report Procedural Irregularities at Trial of Rights Activist Wang Lihong,” August 13, 2011
- Defense Statement for Wang Lihong, August 12, 2011 (Chinese)
- Let the Sun Shine on the Ground, a documentary about Wang Lihong’s case produced by Ai Xiaoming
For more information on Ni Yulan, see:
- “No Verdict Issued in Ni Yulan’s Case,” December 29, 2011
- “The State’s Respect for and Protection of Human Rights Begins with the Strict Prohibition of Torture,” January 17, 2011
- “On January 10, Legal Publicity Day, Police Cut Off Water in Lawyer and Activist Ni Yulan’s Hotel Room,” January 11, 2011 (Chinese)
- Video: “Former Beijing Lawyer Ni Yulan Discusses Her Current Situation,” June 15, 2010 (Chinese)
- “Rights Activist’s Family Sends Appeal after Home Was Demolished,” November 24, 2008