September 01, 2015

"Remarks at the FreeThe20 Campaign Launch by Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations"

Twenty years ago, 189 governments and approximately 30,000 nongovernmental organizations – activists from around the globe convened in Beijing for a world conference to advance gender equality and women’s rights.

'Wang Yu [is] a 44-year-old prisoner in the country where the historic 1995 Beijing Conference was held: China.'

'A commercial lawyer by training, Wang’s activism was sparked in 2008, when employees at a train station refused to let her board a train with her ticket. After demanding the right to board, Wang was assaulted by several men and then–even though she was the one who had been beaten–convicted to two-and-a-half years in prison for what was called “intentional assault.” She later told a reporter, “After my miscarriage of justice...I wanted to improve China's human rights system.”

'Wang did that by taking on the cases of clients who other lawyers feared to represent, such as Ilham Tohti, a prominent Uighur scholar eventually sentenced to life in prison; Cao Shunli, a woman human rights activist who died in March 2014 after reportedly being denied medical treatment while in detention; and those who are known as the “Five Feminists”–young women who were detained in advance of International Women’s Day in March of this year for planning a campaign against sexual harassment. For her work, Wang has been harassed, threatened, and smeared in the state-run media. On July 9th, 2015, Wang herself was detained. So was her husband, along with their 16-year-old son. Wang and her husband remain in prison, where they have been denied regular access to a lawyer in custody and have not yet been charged. Their son was released, but is under constant surveillance and has been barred from leaving the country. When at least 159 Chinese lawyers and activists signed a petition calling for Wang’s release, many of them were detained as well.

'Responding to attacks against her in the state-run press, Wang once wrote, “I believe that during this time of enlightenment and rapid development of the internet…any shameful attempt to smear me is doomed to fail.” She said, “The truth cannot be long hidden.” In raising Wang’s case today and others like it in the days to come, we aim to help her and others expose some of that truth. Let me repeat her name–it is Wang Yu.'

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