Escalating Harassment Campaign Against Chinese Women’s Rights Supporter

Ye Haiyan in an undated photo courtesy of Frontline Defenders.

Ye Haiyan in an undated photo courtesy of Frontline Defenders.

Chinese human rights defender Ye Haiyan has been subjected to a prolonged campaign of harassment and intimidation over the past six weeks which has forced her and her partner and daughter to leave their home, first in Guangxi province, and subsequently Guangdong province. This incident is the latest in a series of steps taken to target Ye Haiyan since she initiated a protest in late May to highlight the sexual abuse of school children. Ms. Ye has been a staunch supporter of women’s rights who has highlighted the working conditions of sex workers, the sexual abuse of children and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS.

Front Line Defenders says that the campaign of intimidation and harassment against Ye Haiyan and her family are directly related to her peaceful and legitimate activities in defense of human rights, in particular women’s and children’s rights. In 2005, she began a website to advocate on behalf of sex workers and the following year she established a Women’s Rights Center in Wuhan province. In 2010, she organized a protest calling for an end to discrimination against sex workers and around this time she also began to be regularly questioned by police. In 2011, she set up a new NGO in Guangxi and in January 2012 she worked as a prostitute for a day and blogged about it afterwards in order to highlight the difficulties that sex workers face. In May of last year her NGO office in Guangxi was raided by eight plainclothes men who also reportedly attacked her. The human rights defender said after the attack that she presumed the men had been sent by the local government.

According to Human Rights Watch, Ms. Ye ”played a critical role in raising awareness about discrimination and violence against sex workers in China.” Since 2005, she has documented police abuse of sex workers and the detrimental public health effects of possession of condoms being used as evidence of prostitution.

Most recently, on July 6th Ms. Ye — along with her boyfriend Ling Haobo and her 14 year-old daughter — were forced to leave a home they had been renting in Zhongshan, Guangdong province by the Zhongshan authorities. The three were left on a roadside early that morning with their belongings packed in cardboard boxes. Mr. Ling reported on his microblog that local police had threatened him, saying “Zhongshan does not welcome you; Guangzhou does not welcome you either. I will break your legs if I ever see you again in Zhongshan.”

According to Yaxue Cao, a US-based writer and activist, Ye Haiyan attempted to stay in the apartment of friend and fellow human rights defender Ms. Ai Xiaoming in Guangzhou city that night but was prevented from doing so by a group of men who blocked her at the entrance to the apartment. Eventually Ye Haiyan’s daughter was permitted to stay in the apartment while Ye Haiyan and Ling Haobo were forced to look for accommodation elsewhere.

During May, Ms. Ye traveled to Hainan province where she protested outside a school whose principal had taken six primary school girls to a hotel room and, along with a local government official, reportedly abused them over a two-day period. The two were later arrested, though local authorities were accused of seeking to minimize the incident. Ye Haiyan stood outside the school concerned with a placard saying,“Principal, get a room with me and leave the school children alone.” News of her protest spread rapidly online and inspired hundreds of other Internet users to post pictures of themselves with similar placards.

Following her return to Guangxi province, on May 30th 2013 Ye Haiyan was assaulted in her home by a group of women. In an effort to defend herself and her daughter, she used a knife to fight off her attackers, reportedly injuring three of them. Ye Haiyan was then arrested and placed in 13 days’ administrative detention.

Upon Ye Haiyan’s release, she continued to be subjected to intimidation and harassment. In June, she was forced to leave her home after being evicted by her landlord, following an escalation in the campaign against her. She then moved to Zhongshan in Guangdong province, where her child was refused permission to enroll in school and finally, electricity to her apartment was cut.

Front Line Defenders is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Ye Haiyan and her family, particularly in the light of the reports of threats made against them by local police officers. The international human rights organization is urging the authorities in China to carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation in to the reported instances of intimidation and harassment against Ye Haiyan and her family and take all necessary measures to guarantee the safety of Ye Haiyan as well as of members of her family.

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