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UN Women: Press China to Protect, Not Persecute, Women Rights Defenders
(Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders – September 16, 2015) CHRD is concerned that the Chinese government is to co-host a world summit with UN Women on gender equality and women’s empowerment, at a time when women human rights defenders and NGOs are facing unusually harsh repression under President Xi Jinping. Xi will open the global meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on September 27.

“China has no right to sponsor this world summit on women,” a woman defender told CHRD.“The government doesn’t give even a sliver of protection to women and girls, especially women petitioners and women with disabilities, either politically or economically. Giving it a ‘leadership’ role as a co-host for the summit is very disturbing.”

CHRD supports UN Women’s agenda to promote gender equality and female empowerment, but the UN group is sending the wrong signal to women’s rights activists in China and around the world by partnering with the Xi government. UN Women and the Chinese government announced the summit plans just two days after the detention of the Five Feminists, young women advocating for women’s and LGBT rights; the announcement in effect gave Chinese authorities a propaganda boost at a time when the international community should have been condemning the detentions. The prominent role of President Xi—he is not only opening the event but also chairing a session on youth and women’s rights and gender equality—completely ignores the fact that he has presided over one of the most severe crackdowns on civil society in decades.

“There aren’t any signs that the government is doing any better in protecting women’s rights and women defenders after being made the co-host of the UN women summit,” said one women’s rights activist. “President Xi should at least keep his government’s promises on women’s rights and, especially, keeping his hands off women’s rights NGOs.”

It is particularly disturbing that UN Women has partnered with the Chinese government while women defenders in China face serious reprisals for trying to engage with UN human rights instruments or participate in UN activities.

One woman, Cao Shunli (曹顺利), paid with her life for trying to engage with the UN: she died in March 2014 after authorities denied medical treatment during a five-month detention. Cao had campaigned for civil society participation in the 2009 and 2013 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of China. Police seized her at the airport in Beijing as she was boarding a flight to Geneva, where she was to attend the UPR, and repeatedly refused her lawyer’s requests for medical bail as her health worsened. Since her death, the Chinese government has intimidated her family and refused to allow an independent investigation into her death. China and other like-minded countries blocked international NGOs attempt to hold a minute of silence in Cao’s memory during the UN Human Rights Council session in March 2014.

Women rights advocates who worked alongside Cao Shunli—Chen Jianfang (陈建芳), Ge Zhihui (葛志慧), Liu Xiaofang (刘晓芳), and Peng Lanlan (彭兰岚)—have also been punished with detention and torture. Women defenders Ye Haiyan (叶海燕) and Wang Qiuyun (王秋云)faced obstacles and punishment when they also tried to participate in a UN review of China’s record on eliminating discrimination against women. Ye was detained when she tried to raise public awareness about the review, while police prevented Wang from traveling to Geneva to discuss problems concerning Chinese women affected by HIV/AIDS in a program partially funded by UN Women.

Female empowerment starts with allowing members of civil society the space to promote and protect women’s rights without fear of reprisal. But women human rights defenders and NGOs championing women’s rights have paid a heavy toll under the Chinese government’s escalating crackdown against civil society, with leading women defenders subjected to criminal detention, violent assault, intimidation, and other forms of mistreatment.

One of the few female human rights lawyers, Wang Yu (王宇), has disappeared into secret detention for more than two months after police broke into her home on July 9. Wang has been an influential figure in her field and represented women and girls in cases of sexual violence and discrimination, as well as prominent female activists like the Five Feminists and Cao Shunli. She was the principal target of the current crackdown on human rights lawyers, which has subjected more than 20 lawyers to some form of enforced disappearance, where they are at great risk of torture and mistreatment. Five UN human rights experts and the High Commissioner on Human Rights have condemned China’s targeted crackdown against lawyers.

Journalist and champion of media freedom, Gao Yu (高瑜), was sentenced to seven years in prison after being convicted on a state secrets charge in April. Imprisoned in the past for her role in the 1989 pro-democracy movement, Gao was previously honored by the UN with theUNESCO World Press Freedom Prize. Gao, 71, is in urgent need of proper medical treatment for heart problems and high blood pressure, among other illnesses, but authorities have repeatedly rejected requests for medical bail.

Chinese women who seek to participate in local politics, where women are not well represented, can face tremendous risks. Two women activists Liu Ping (刘萍) and Li Biyun (李碧云) faced repeated attacks when they tried to run as independent candidates in their local People’s Congress elections in 2011, including being locked up and tortured by police on numerous occasions. Liu is currently serving a six-and-half-year sentence, and Li continues to face police surveillance and violence by unidentified men, following 14 months in detention.

Housing and land rights activists Su Changlan (苏昌兰), Jia Lingmin (贾灵敏), and Feng Jiawen (凤加文) have all been detained since last year. Su is accused of “inciting subversion of state power” for supporting the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests in October 2014, and has still not been brought before a judge. Jia, detained in May 2014, was put on trial with marred court proceedings on a charge of “creating a disturbance,” and is awaiting a verdict. Authorities sentenced Feng to 14 months’ imprisonment on a “creating a disturbance” charge for fighting against the discrimination against rural women in land cases, and she recently lost her appeal. Feng’s case is emblematic of persistent discrimination against against rural women in China, in part due to the government’s failure to protect rural women’s equal rights to land.

Women from disadvantaged social and economic groups account for the vast majority of detainees in China’s illegal black jails, especially since the abolition of the Re-education through Labor (RTL) system. Women detained in these lawless makeshift facilities face sexual assault, verbal abuse, and other degrading and humiliating treatment. Victims of the notorious Masanjia women’s RTL camp have not been compensated for the torture they suffered. Instead, many have faced retaliation, including prison, for their persistence in demanding justice. Zhu Guiqin (朱桂芹), a Masanjia victim, was detained for seeking compensation and will be put on trial this week.

The Chinese government also targets women simply for speaking out for their loved ones. Such is the case with the poet Liu Xiu (刘霞), in poor health and under house arrest for years after calling for the release of her husband, imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Authorities sentenced recent university graduate Bian Xiaohui (卞晓辉) to three-and-a-half years in prison after she demanded the right to see her father after he was jailed for his religious beliefs.

To show meaningful effort towards promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment and to live up to the honor of co-hosting a UN summit, the Chinese government must immediately take the following steps to improve its record on protecting women’s rights:

  • Release all detained women human rights lawyers, journalists, and activists, as well as the family members of defenders; and drop all criminal charges against the Five Feminists, and allow them to freely conduct their work on behalf of women and girls without fear of retaliation;
  • Release “black jail” detainees, who are mostly women, and take actions towards bringing those responsible for operating these illegal facilities to justice; and
  • Pledge to allow an independent investigation conducted through international bodies into the death of human rights defender Cao Shunli.

CHRD also calls on the international community to sign this petition calling for the release of Chinese women rights defenders, and help send a message to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and UN Women that a country co-hosting a global summit on women must protect women’s rights and female defenders.


Renee Xia, International Director (Mandarin, English), reneexia, Follow on Twitter: @ReneeXiaCHRD

Victor Clemens, Research Coordinator (English), victorclemens, Follow on Twitter: @VictorClemens

Frances Eve, Researcher (English), franceseve, Follow on Twitter: @FrancesEveCHRD

Wendy Lin, Hong Kong Coordinator (Mandarin, Cantonese, English), wendylin, Follow on Twitter: @WendyLinCHRD

Follow CHRD on Twitter: @CHRDnet

Boxer Rebellion Walking Tour

Posted: September 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

This Sunday, I went on a boxer rebellion walking tour to the old Legation Quarter – where the embassies used to be. The boxer Rebellion, an anti-imperialist uprising by a group of mythical rebels, took place during the end of the Qing Dynasty. In the dreadful summer of1900, the legation quarter was under siege for 55 days by the boxers, armed with swords (they believed that they were invulnerable to foreign weapons!) and Qing troops. Some 4000 foreigners, missionaries, diplomats and business people and their families as well as Chinese Christians, all gathered here. Danish sinologist Lars Ulrick from Beijing Postcards Thom led the tour. He explained the background, the aggression of the foreign powers, the growing anti-foreign sentiments and the drought as we walked past the tree-lined former embassy land where some colonial buildings still stand and he vividly recounted – sometimes acted out – some of the colorful stories: the murder of the German ambassador, the bombing of the French embassy; and how 200,000 bullets flew into the air without hitting one target and how some westerners ate their horses, washed down by plenty of alcohol – the only food item abundance.

The impact of the Boxer Rebellion was profound. It sped up the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and pushed China into a modern world.

I personally found the Boxer Rebellion fascinating as it is one of the historical events that got dramatically different interpretations. At school, we learnt it was a patriotic movement while many western academics regarded it as a barbaric uprising: many missionaries were brutally murdered. Well, it all depends on who’s point of view. The truth may lie somewhere in between.

What an enjoyable history lesson. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s former aide Ma Thida on prison, hopes for Myanmar, and The Lady

Lijia Zhang

When Dr Ma Thida was released from Yangon’s Insein Prison, in 1999, she thanked her jailers.

"I had always wanted to write a prison memoir, just like some of my activist friends had done," says the physician-turned-writer and human rights activist. "So they fulfilled my wish."

The Burmese version of her memoir – titled Sanchaung, Insein, Harvard– came out in 2012, and she is putting the final touches to the English edition. The book, vividly written, marks Ma Thida out as one of the most important writers in Myanmar.

We are sitting in the small office in downtown Yangon from where Ma Thida runs a youth magazine and a weekly literary journal. At 49, her smooth skin gives her the look of a younger woman, and beneath her electric blue traditional Burmese-style top, matching longyi and calm demeanour, she radiates a restless energy.

Ma Thida in her office in Yangon.

In many respects, Ma Thida’s personal story reflects the recent history of Myanmar. In October 1993, the young doctor was imprisoned for 20 years for actively supporting Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition party. The official charge: "endangering public peace, having contact with illegal organisations and distributing unlawful literature." Her early release, on humanitarian grounds, was partly due to international pressure and her declining health – she has suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis, among other ailments. She also believes that the prison authorities had had enough of her.

"I was a very bad prisoner," she recalls, with a gentle smile, her black eyes sparkling behind a pair of black-framed spectacles.

Serving her term mostly in solitary confinement, Ma Thida refused to be pushed around, she says. Every two weeks, inmates were allowed a 15-minute visit by family members. Once, when she noticed that four mangoes had gone missing from the food parcel visitors had brought her she demanded to know where the fruit had gone. At first, the wardens ignored her, but she refused to sign the parcel’s acceptance slip. Two weeks later, the wardens had to return the mangoes, by now rotten, to her parents.

See also: Aung San Suu Kyi confirms deal with Shwe Mann

It was the small victories – and up to 20 hours a day of Vipassana meditation – that kept her going.

During one of the interrogations, when asked about her political inspiration, she replied: "To be a good citizen." The same motivation drives her today. She fights to change her country for the better by using her pen as a weapon, serving as a social and political critic, and continuing to work as a doctor, at Yangon’s Muslim Free Hospital.

MA THIDA WAS BORN into a middle-class family in Rangoon, as the former capital, Yangon, was then known. Her accountant father, originally from a poor farming family, had made his way to the city through education and hard work. Her mother, a former English teacher, focused her energy on the education of her three children. Ma Thida always found books more rewarding than playmates. Advanced far beyond her peers, her birth date was changed by her parents to allow her to start school early.

Ma Thida was barely 16 when she entered medical school. While coping with a demanding course, she pursued her passion for literature. Still a freshman, she published her first short story, in 1984, in weekly journalYokeshin. More stories, which were her attempt to explore the meaning of life, followed. Impressed, the editors of other literary magazines published her work but suspected that her mother was the true author.

"The editors expected a 16-year-old girl would like to talk about boys, love or relationships," Ma Thida says, half smiling. "But such matters never interested me.

"I want to write because I want to share what I observe; poverty, for example."

Aung San Suu Kyi addresses a rally in Yangon, on August 26, 1988.

Ma Thida first observed grinding deprivation when she visited her father’s ancestral village, in Hsipaw State, Upper Myanmar, and later, when she spent summers with her Chinese grandfather at his village, in Mawlamyine, in the south. Poverty has plagued Myanmar, once known as the "rice basket of Asia", since the military junta took power in 1962 and launched the "Burmese Way to Socialism".

"I want to worry about … children," she writes in Nostalgic Dreams of Pagan (2002). "All the children. The ones who have only one set of clothes, their school uniform, and who have to stop selling gold leaf and start panning gold, the ones who are reduced to eating maize seed instead of rice, who smile when we visit Pagan as if they are happy, but who are so much in need.

"And what about the people in the delta who don’t even have enough paddies for this year? Will we let them live without paddy seeds for the next year? And the fishermen in Tenasserim whose fish stocks are disappearing fast, leaving them alone with nothing but water? And the people who live near the borders – Shan, Kayah, Karen, Mon, Burman and Rakhine – living under the omnipresent threat of forced porterage and labour? And the public sector employees in the town who, because of their dependence on a paltry salary, must sign away their freedom to speak or to listen?"

As Ma Thida matured, the country grew turbulent. She grew more civic-minded as the 1980s progressed and made friends with politically active writers and artists. It was perhaps inevitable that she would end up working for Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ma Thida wasn’t immediately impressed by the future Nobel Peace Prize laureate. She first saw the daughter of independence hero Aung San in the distance, at the Yangon General Hospital. The Lady, as Suu Kyi is fondly called now, had returned from Britain to nurse her stroke-stricken mother, who had been admitted to the hospital in which Ma Thida was practising as part of her eight-year medical course.

"I wondered to myself, ‘You are the daughter of our national hero. How could you remain indifferent to your motherland?’" Ma Thida recalls.

See also: Aung San Suu Kyi is simply being pragmatic

That year, 1988, social unrest erupted as living standards deteriorated. On August 8, the military used force to put down a massive student-led anti-government demonstration, killing some 3,000 protesters. As the crisis mounted, Suu Kyi joined the movement for democracy.

At the end of August, she gave her first public speech, at Yangon’s iconic Shwedagon Pagoda, triggering excitement and hope among the crowd, an estimated half a million people.

"That was an incredible speech!" enthuses Ma Thida, who was among the electrified listeners. "She explained the circumstance of her staying away and why the fact that she was married to a foreigner [Briton Michael Aris] didn’t interfere with her love and devotion to the country."

After Suu Kyi became the chairwoman of the National League for Democracy, which she had co-founded with several former army officers, Ma Thida went to work for her as an aide. In early 1989, on the Lady’s campaign trail to Upper Myanmar, Ma Thida served as medical officer and was responsible for recording Suu Kyi’s speeches and conversations.

"I enjoy doing several different things at the same time. This way, I don’t have a chance of getting bored," she says.

Reebok Human Rights award winner Jesus Tecu Osorio, from Guatemala, holds a picture of Ma Thida, at an International Human Rights Day candlelight vigil in Boston, in the United States, in 1996.

In those days, Ma Thida got by with only three or four hours sleep, she says.

Working closely with Suu Kyi, and observing how she responded to questions and made connections with people, deepened Ma Thida’s interest in political activism.

Upon her early release from prison – advocated for by, among others, PEN International, a worldwide association of writers – she was invited to take part in the International Writers’ Programme at the University of Iowa, in the United States. Myanmese authorities, however, refused to issue her a passport, so she returned to work, taking the morning shift at the Muslim Free Hospital, where she had volunteered after university as a general practitioner. In the afternoons, she worked as an editor of literary magazine Shweamyutay. In the evenings, she worked at a private clinic, to earn money. At night, she studied for an online PhD in health management with the University of London; she dreamed of becoming a surgeon but, being on the government’s black list, no Myanmar university would accept her.

In early 2008, having been invited to attend her university graduation ceremony in London, she finally obtained a passport and left Myanmar for the first time. That autumn, she flew to the US for fellowships at Brown University and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, at Harvard University.

I enjoy doing several different things at the same time. This way, I don’t have a chance of getting bored

"My time in the US was an eye-opening experience," she says. "Life was certainly more comfortable and I learned a lot about how a multiethnic, multidimensional society can embrace individual freedom and rights and, at the same time, how good governance in a democratic society works. But I never contemplated the idea of staying: my goal in life is to improve my country, something I can only achieve in Myanmar."

The fellowships gave her time to write. Apart from the prison memoir, she completed The Roadmap. Described as a "documentary novel" by Ma Thida, it follows the lives of a fictional Burmese family as they deal with the events of the 1988 revolution and its aftermath. Her skilful blend of fiction and historical events has won her many fans.

Ma Thida’s writing always follows a political agenda as she is passionate about using the written word to influence public opinion and push for change. That is not surprising for a writer in a country where nothing is independent of politics.

In his essay "Why I Write", British author George Orwell, who spent much of the 1920s in Burma, as a policeman, argued that books that lack political purpose are "most ornate and pointless". Ma Thida’s themes would no doubt have met with Orwell’s approval.

In her first book-length novel, The Sunflower (written in 1992, published in 1999), she depicts Suu Kyi as a "prisoner of praise".

"People in Myanmar think of her highly and have too high expectations of her," says Ma Thida. "It’s not fair for anyone to shoulder such a burden. This is how I see her being trapped in a prison of praise."

Instead of pinning all of their hopes on one leader, her fellow countrymen will participate more in politics, themselves, Ma Thida hopes. She is adamant that "each and every citizen can make his or her contribution to society and make a difference".

Rohingyas, who were caught trying to escape sectarian violence in Myanmar. Ma Thida says government propaganda creates fear of the Muslim minority.

Suu Kyi was freed from years of house arrest in 2010 and has become a member of parliament as well as leader of the opposition.

"I don’t agree with everything Suu Kyi says or does," Ma Thida says. "But I’d hesitate to criticise her because the only people who can gain from the criticism are the military-backed ruling party."

For Ma Thida and millions of other Myanmese, the Lady still represents hope. But she will face an uphill battle in November’s general election, because the competition will not be fair: the constitution automatically grants the military 25 per cent of parliamentary seats (a recent review by the quasi-civilian government left this provision unchanged).

On the Rohingya issue – many of the persecuted minority remain locked inside Myanmese camps for the internally displaced – Ma Thida concedes that Suu Kyi has been muted.

"I do understand that she simply doesn’t want to be manipulated by both sides," she adds quickly. "If the Lady is too outspoken on the issue, she may be seen by some as a ‘Muslim lover’, and therefore alienate some voters."

I don’t agree with everything Suu Kyi says or does. But I’d hesitate to criticise her because the only people who can gain from the criticism are the military-backed ruling party.

Ma Thida herself has been outspoken on the Rohingya issue. In an article that won her the National Press Award last year, she explained how the alleged rape of a woman in Rakhine state by a Rohingya man in 2012 sparked a crisis and how a regional conflict escalated into a national one. And she pointed the finger at the government.

"On one hand, the authorities tolerate some Buddhist racial groups such as ‘969’, who openly engage in hate speech against Muslims," she says, "On the other hand, they use the propaganda machine to create fear of Muslims." So much so that many Buddhists in Rakhine, where the majority of the nation’s Rohingya live, are calling for the return of military rule.

In February last year, a scheduled public lecture by Ma Thida and another writer, a Muslim, was cancelled by the authorities.

"So there’s no such thing as freedom of speech yet," she says, smiling ruefully. "Only an easing of control over censorship."

Ma Thida recognises that tremendous progress has been made since 2011, when the military rulers relaxed political controls. The economy has picked up and foreign investors and tourists are flocking in. But she’s also worried about new challenges.

"Before, we had a common enemy – the military rulers," she explains. "Now we’ve lost the enemy, tensions between different ethnic groups are growing, so is the nationalist sentiment, which has led to anti-foreigner feelings."

Ma Thida confesses that she feels less optimistic about the country now.

"We used to have such a bright hope that one day democracy would come to Myanmar. There’s no real democracy yet, but we have had a taste of the reality. I have realised that our people are not ready for democracy. For me, I find this particularly depressing."

Then she smiles, "So I’ll have to continue my fight."

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Xi Turns Back the Clock on Women’s Rights in China

An emboldened Beijing clamps down on civil liberties

Chinese security officials stood guard in April at the entrance of Hongtongying village on the outskirts of Beijing where freed feminist activist Li Tingting is staying. Ms Li and four other recently released Chinese feminists say they are still being treated as criminal suspects.ENLARGE
Chinese security officials stood guard in April at the entrance of Hongtongying village on the outskirts of Beijing where freed feminist activist Li Tingting is staying. Ms Li and four other recently released Chinese feminists say they are still being treated as criminal suspects. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS



July 21, 2015 12:57 a.m. ET30 COMMENTS

Although it would be almost unthinkable today, as a political chill descends over Beijing, two decades ago close to 30,000 women from around the world converged on a muddy tent village outside the Chinese capital to promote a host of social and political causes.

The carnival-style NGO Forum on Women made the authorities nervous, but it was part of the U.N.’s Fourth World Conference on Women, which China agreed to host as a way to polish its international image still tarnished by the army’s brutal suppression of student protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989. Hard-liners in charge at the time evidently figured the political discomfort was worth the gains to China’s global prestige.

Tibetan activists set up stalls. Amnesty International, in China for the first time, rebuked the Chinese government over its human rights practices at a news conference. Then U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton, one of the celebrity attendees, made herself popular with the women by lecturing her Chinese hosts about free speech and assembly after they withheld visas for some of the delegates.

The event became a watershed moment for the Chinese women’s movement. Because foreign NGOs would be there, Chinese authorities had to allow local NGOs to set up and participate.

They never looked back—until now.

Ironically, just as President Xi Jinping prepares to attend a U.N. summit in New York in September to mark the 20th anniversary of the landmark women’s conference, his administration has begun to clamp down on independent women’s groups for the first time since the NGO Forum.

The restrictions underscore just how far Mr. Xi is turning back the clock on civil liberties in China—all the way to the days of harsh political repression that followed the crushing of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. They also reveal a transformation in the mind-set of the government, still fearful of organized political opposition but so confident in China’s elevated place in the world that it no longer feels much compulsion to make concessions to its international critics.

One of the first signs of trouble came when police detained a small group of activists on the eve of International Women’s Day in March for planning events to draw attention to sexual harassment on public transport.

One of China's "Feminist Five," Wang Man, shown here in 2012 with a paper demanding financial disclosure from the Chinese state administration of taxation, was recently released from custody. The five activists complained to the U.N. that it is now impossible for women’s groups to work with the Chinese governmentENLARGE
One of China’s "Feminist Five," Wang Man, shown here in 2012 with a paper demanding financial disclosure from the Chinese state administration of taxation, was recently released from custody. The five activists complained to the U.N. that it is now impossible for women’s groups to work with the Chinese government PHOTO:LU JUN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Even though the so-called “Feminist Five” were released from custody in April, they say they are still being treated as criminal suspects.

In an open letter this month to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moonand the Executive Director of U.N. Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, they complained that it is now impossible for women’s groups to work with the Chinese government and the U.N. on issues from preventing violence against women to assisting their battles against AIDS and disability. It is an “unexpected and shameful setback,” the letter said, adding: “Please help us!”

The treatment of the “Feminist Five” is connected to what rights advocates describe as the most sustained assault on civil society in China since 1989. In recent days, police have detained some two dozen human-rights lawyers and interrogated close to 200 more lawyers, law firm staff and activists.

While the authorities never fully trusted NGOs, they recognized they had to deal with them given the increasing complexities of urban China, and the overwhelming burden on government resources imposed by disease, pollution other social challenges. Today, Chinese NGOs are under more intense scrutiny than ever, suspected of colluding with “hostile foreign forces” to subvert the regime. A new law in the works will put all foreign NGOs under police administration.

To be sure, China hasn’t abandoned gender causes: new legislation on domestic violence is due later this year. But the harassment of the “Feminist Five” sends an unmistakable message that when it comes to women’s rights, as all other rights, the Communist Party—and only the Communist Party—will drive the agenda.

A sweeping effort is under way to consolidate the party’s power over all aspects of Chinese society.

And there’s not much that the U.N. or anybody else can do, even though international pressure may conceivably have played some role in the release of the “Feminist Five.”

Mrs. Clinton herself underscored the new realities when, ahead of her first visit to China as Secretary of State in 2009, she made clear that she wouldn’t allow human rights to get in the way of other business, including the financial crisis raging at the time. As presidential candidate, she responded to the detention of the “Feminist Five” with a tweet that called it “inexcusable.”

In response, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said, “We hope that public figures in other countries can respect China’s judicial sovereignty and independence.”

To Chinese feminists, what’s so perverse about the clampdown is that when it comes to women’s rights the Communist Party has a good story to tell. One of its proudest achievements was to emancipate women after the revolution. “Women hold up half the sky,” Mao famously proclaimed.

Tell that to the “Feminist Five” and groups that trace their heritage to the NGO Forum. They sought to collaborate with the party, not challenge it. No matter: their skies are now falling in.

See below a link to a powerful piece by Carrie. For ten years, she has been visiting the village White Horse in Sichuan where her former helper Xiao Zhang and her family live and witnessing how the idylic village being transformed to a modern town. The TV series has won various awards. and I am proud to say that I did the initial fixing and researching and made the suggestion of focusing on the changes of the town instead of the story of Xiao Zhang as originally planned.