Fears for female activist held incommunicado
Li Qiaochu is a feminist labour issues researcher. She has long been involved in issues concerning equal rights for workers, women and other members of Chinese society. Her research has covered topics such as policies on social protection for retired workers. When Beijing authorities cleared and evicted the “low income population” in 2017, Li worked with volunteers to compile and disseminate information about the most affected communities, in order to help the expelled migrant workers find new jobs and affordable alternative accommodation. Li also actively took part in various national #MeToo campaigns. She compiled data, drafted reports and posted messages online of her support for the movement.
In June 2019, Li was diagnosed with depression and was put on regular medication. However, this did not stop her from her activism. With the outbreak of COVID-19, Li again volunteered to help, both online and offline, with epidemic prevention in small communities. She distributed face masks to sanitation workers and guided pregnant women from affected communities to help each other out. Having observed the lack of gender perspective, especially with respect to prevention of gender-based violence in some hospitals’ practices, she immediately worked with a group of volunteers to set out recommendations.
As a result of Li’s activism, she has often been harassed by the police. Beginning in early December 2019, public security officers were stationed outside her house, monitoring her on her way to and from work, which seriously contravened her privacy and civil rights.
Since 26 December 2019, police across the country have been summoning or detaining participants in an informal gathering of lawyers and activists held in Xiamen earlier that month. Dai Zhenya, Ding Jiaxi and Zhang Zhongshun are just three of the many participants detained, and are currently being held under residential surveillance at a designated location unknown to their families.
Residential surveillance in a designated location is a measure that, under certain circumstances, enables criminal investigators to hold individuals for up to six months outside the formal detention system in, what can amount to a form of secret incommunicado detention. When held without access to legal counsel of their choice, their families or others, suspects placed under this form of “residential surveillance” are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. This form of detention has been used to curb the activities of human rights defenders, including lawyers, activists and religious practitioners. Activists and human rights defenders continue to be systematically subjected to monitoring, harassment, intimidation, arrest and detention.
The best way to reach the authorities is by mail. However, please note that some members have reported in the past that letters were returned as the authorities refused to receive them.
If this happens in your country, please let firstname.lastname@example.org know and consider sending the appeals instead to the Chinese embassy in your own country.