Tough days for prostitute-activist Ye Haiyan aka Liumang Yan
Outspoken advocate for sex workers Ye Haiyan (叶海燕), who raised eyebrows in January by turning prostitute for a day in order to dive into the world of the so-called “10RMB prostitute”, says she was attacked by eight unidentified men and her office ransacked in an incident which occurred last Friday evening.
Also known online as Liumang Yan (流氓燕 “Hooligan Sparrow”), Ye has published her account of the attack in an entry on her blog. The following is Shanghaiist’s translation of that account:
My name is Ye Haiyan and I want to talk about what happened this evening. I was in the middle of a phone call and did not notice a group of approximatey eight men rushing in behind me. They knocked over my cabinet and pushed me to the edge of my table. When I put down my telephone and asked them what the matter was, one man wearing a hat began to attack me with his hands while others ransacked the office.
Following a heated argument, one of them brandished a knife. The glimmer of the knife stunned me for a moment — I could not believe they had actually brought a knife with them. Instinctively, I picked up a chair and threw it at him. Other people also distracted him from hacking me with the knife. When I yelled at Wen Dao [Editor’s note: A young student visiting the office] to snap a few pictures, the men immediately prepared to flee, but the man wearing a hat lounged towards me.
I yelled at them, “Fuck you! You want to hack me? You want to kill me? Come give it all you’ve got!” The hat man turned around and threw a bicycle at me. I threw a chair back. With his strength, he would only have taken minutes to kill me, or at least leave me disabled, in a matter of minutes, if he really wanted to do so. There’s absolutely no mafia who would be so kind.
By this time a crowd had gathered outside, and a few of the gangsters started making their way out because they were afraid of having their pictures snapped. I still had a chair in my hands, I chased the remaining men out as I yelled at them. Three of the men went on their (unlicensed) electric bikes, and I tried to get Wen Dao to snap pictures of one of them who was moving too slowly. He turned around, said, “What the fuck does this have to do with me?” and set upon Wen Dao.
Before the Two Sessions, I received threatening phone calls. The callers would not say anything, and make only the demand that I shut down the office. In March, somebody destroyed our signboard. But to get eight men to come do this to an NGO operating out of a 10 square metre space — this is really giving us more attention than we deserve. I’d like to thank the Party and the Government for paying so much attention to me! I, Ye Haiyan, bow to you.
Two kind souls had warned me in the past that people in the government are out to get me. One of them is Teacher Liang, and another is my aunt. I have tweeted about these warnings in the past and if you recall, you’ll see what’s really happening here.
The real mafia don’t operate in the same way as these “alternative” mafia. Real mafia will have a real reason before they even smash your place. They aren’t going to show up without a reason. But when they do lay their hands on you, they aren’t going to hold back, especially not when they see me face to face. “Alternative” mafia, however are different. They won’t take your valuables, won’t smash your computer, won’t hit you, and won’t stab you even if they have a knife in their hands. They’ll advance and retreat in a very disciplined manner. And even after they’re done, they’ll have people watching over you. When the real mafia are done, they’re done.
I’m worried for the safety of my daughter. You guys know what the security and reputation of this place is like. They’ve used 20 men just to deal with me. Tomorrow when I send my kid to school, I hope someone can accompany me. I really don’t want my child’s studies to be affected because of this and I don’t want this violent incident to affect her psychologically. I will continue to stay here in Bobai county and will continue to keep the office opened as usual.
I’m not a hooligan and I have done nothing wrong. Even if they want to kill me or hack me to pieces, I will not retreat. I will use my own life to defend my conscience and my freedom, my beliefs and everything I do. I will not retreat one inch! I’m going to continue to speak up for sex workers, and to speak the truth with facts! Until one of you silence me by killing me, that is.
I have a responsibility to make sure this bottom line in our society doesn’t slide downwards. You all have a responsibility too! I hope you will support me and give me the strength to continue on this path! Let’s get the government over their mess. Let’s make the world accept that sex workers also need to be cared for. Let’s make everyone understand that the lives of the vulnerable deserve to be protected too.
There is a sex worker NGO in Taiwan called Ririchun (日日春). Before prostitutes in Taiwan were legally recognised, they put in over a decade of work, criticising Chen Shuibian and demanding for legalisation. In Hong Kong, there’s Ziteng (紫藤). They’ve gone to court numerous times to defend the legal rights of prostitutes. As a citizen of China, I want to prove that I’m not a second class citizen by speaking up for sex workers. I’m by no means as radical as my counterparts in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and I have not taken legal and political means. All that I’ve been doing is to exhort people to please have more tolerance and compassion.
I’m doing all of this because I love my people and I love my country. I don’t want foreigners to laugh at us and say we don’t have human rights and don’t have any human decency. I don’t want foreigners to compare us to North Korea! So I’m sorry! It’s not that I don’t understand you guys, but that I want to save the face of this country more than you do. For this reason, I will continue to walk down this path in my quest to be a Chinese citizen with a sense of righteousness and consciousness!
Last year, Ye Haiyan appeared nude along with three other women and dissident-artist Ai Weiwei in a picture entitled “One Tiger, Eight Breasts”. The picture led police to probe Ai Weiwei for pornography, and angry netizens subsequently posted their own nude pictures in an online protest in support of Ai.
Click here to see pictures of Ye Haiyan’s office after the attack.
Click here to read Ye Haiyan’s account of her day as a prostitute offering free sexual services to migrant workers.