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China: CSW highlights human rights defenders on International Women's Day

Ni Yulan

Ni Yulan

On International Women's Day Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) calls for the release of Chinese Tulip Prize winner and lawyer, Ni Yulan, and imprisoned church leader, Yang Rongli.

Ni Yulan, whose work defending housing rights and religious freedom cases has brought immense personal cost, remains in detention in Beijing after a trial in December 2011 at which she was tried for "creating a disturbance" ended without a verdict. She is in a wheelchair as a result of torture and beatings received at the hands of Chinese authorities while in prison.

At the trial in December 2011 she gave evidence from a hospital bed while on oxygen. CSW and China Aid nominated her for the Dutch government's prestigious Tulip Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2011. Her daughter was prevented from travelling to The Hague to receive the award on her mother's behalf in January 2012.

Yang Rongli, a church pastor, is serving a seven-year prison sentence in Shanxi province. She was arrested in September 2009 after she, and other church leaders, protested the destruction of the Fushan Church at a prayer rally. This resulted in them being charged with "gathering masses to disturb transport order", charges similar to those given to Ni Yulan. The group, including Yang, then attempted to travel to Beijing to protest the actions of the local government. They were arrested en route. An appeal was rejected and Yang remains in prison.

Chinese female human rights defenders have suffered in the continuing crackdown on all forms of dissent in China, which has seen lawyers, religious leaders, artists, writers, bloggers and political activists suffer harassment, arrest, torture and imprisonment in recent months. In some cases, their families have also been arrested. Liu Xia, wife of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo, remains under strict house arrest in Beijing, even though no charges have been brought against her.

International Women's Day has been observed since the 1900s and seeks to honour women's role in the world. It is a national holiday for women in China.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: "On International Women's Day, CSW calls for the release of Ni Yulan and Yang Rongli, who are representative of many other human rights defenders wrongfully imprisoned in China. As the China phase of our Cry Freedom campaign kicks off, we are encouraging our supporters worldwide to lobby their MEP or Foreign Ministry to keep the plight of human rights defenders in China on the agenda. CSW urges the international community to continue raising human rights concerns with the Chinese government, including the harassment and imprisonment of family members of prominent human rights defenders."

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