Author: Jingyi Wu
This is my story. My name is Jingyi Wu.
Close to 90 hours ago, at 2 pm, Mar. 6th 2015 Beijing time, two days before the International Women’s Day, my friend, a much-loved feminist activist, Wei Tingting was asked to go to the police station for a tea interview, and she hasn’t returned home since. In China, a saying goes “there is no free lunch.” A tea interview with the police not only means that you get free tea, you get into trouble too. Two hours later, at 4 pm, people from Ministry of State Security of the People's Republic of China came to the home of my other friend Wang Man, and arrested her. Over the course of a day, the Chinese government arrested my three other activist friends, Li Maizi, Zheng Churan, and Wu Rongrong, in Beijing, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou, three cities that are thousands of miles apart, and transported them to a distant detention camp outside of Beijing. From one Chinese policeman, we gathered the information that the detention might be up to 30 days or more, which means that the Chinese government has to file a formal accusation towards them. Since then, no further information could be found.
The link between the arrests of these five women is a simple one. Through monitoring devices, the government gathered information about the advocacy these women from cities around China were planning for International Women’s Day, and out of an intricate need to maintain a peaceful image when National People’s Congress is in session, the government decided to stop the event. What my friends were planning was to pass out stickers on public transportation to raise awareness of sexual harassment happening in public space. On one of the stickers, it says, “Stop sexual harassment, police, go get the harassers,” but the policemen went and got the activists instead.
The women under detention are five of the most powerful women I have ever known, and together we have possessed sweet memories. Over the two years before coming to Middlebury, I had the opportunity to participate in feminist campaigns in China, many of which were organized by these five. Among the many things we’ve done together, we have asked through lawsuits and performance art for an end to gender based employment discrimination, college entrance admission discrimination, and partner violence. My dear friends have done more amazing things, and I truly admire them for the bravery and courage that I have not yet owned. It is these basic dreams that are explicitly written in Chinese laws and are boringly trivial here in the States that my friends are risking their freedom to actualize.
Since I have heard the news, I have had a hard time organizing my feelings. I have contacted as many activist friends as I could to just say hi because I didn’t know if someday they would disappear. I waited and sat before my computer, refreshing Facebook news, and crying. I have been both sad and angry, partly because this situation is horrifying and no one could give me confident advice on how to rescue them, and partly because I am living in this comfortable college in rural Vermont, without any ability to alleviate the pains of my friends. The worst type of anger is the realization of the powerlessness of the self. Therefore I decided that, as long as my friends are still under detention, I will turn my anger into an effort to let their stories be told, and here I am.
The detention they are facing is another type of gender-based violence. The aim for any violence, especially this type, is to beat out the agency inside individuals and force them to conform. It's a forceful expanding of one’s interests over another. Although this story doesn’t happen here, it happens on a land far far away, but it happens in my heart and the intention of this violence can be traced similarly with sexual violence on this campus. This story has not gained permission from the victims of gender-based violence, because they are unreachable, and because they would refuse to call themselves victims. They have not yet survived, but they will, as powerful as ever.
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