Chinese authorities have ordered a leading women’s legal aid center in Beijing to close down, shocking the country’s legal rights advocates.
Beijing Zhongze Women’s Legal Counseling and Service Center was established following the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing which took place in 1995. It was during a time when China was struggling for international acceptance after the events of Tiananmen Square a few years previously.
Led by Chinese lawyer and human rights activist Guo Jianmei, the center began its life at Peking University before it later moved to an apartment in northern Beijing.
“It looks like they are trying to crush all people with any influence, as far as well-known people go today, it’s ‘kill one and scare 100’ to make sure no one else tries to do anything,” said an anonymous source connected to the center. “Controls on thought and speech are intensifying. The repression of lawyers and NGOs is growing.” said a longtime woman’s rights campaigner who requested anonymity.”
The order comes just months after China expressed its support for women’s rights at the United Nation conference in New York, with Xi Jinping’s wife delivering a speech in English on women’s rights that attracted considerable attention.
Ironically, gender equality is official Chinese government policy. Last September, China’s State Council released a white paper titled “Gender Equality and Women’s Development in China,” which outlined the importance of using social resources to promote the status of women.
One might say that a center providing legal aid to female victims of domestic violence and helps resolve disputes over child custody, land rights and employment would be seen as important in achieving that aim.
Despite Guo deliberately avoiding sensitive cases for fear of offending the authorities, the government has still decided to take action and crack down on civil society.
By Kitty Lai
[image via New York Times]