US criticizes China ahead of UN women’s equality session

27 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Rights Groups Criticize Xi Participation in UN Women’s Summit.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States and human rights organizations sharply criticized China’s repression and imprisonment of women’s rights activists ahead of a high-level U.N. meeting Sunday to promote women’s equality. On Sunday, President Xi Jinping of China is hosting, along with the United Nations, a summit meeting to recognize the 20th anniversary of a landmark women’s rights conference in Beijing — never mind, as critics point out, that China imprisoned five prominent feminist activists this year. Some 74 presidents and prime ministers are scheduled to attend the meeting, including Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. Rights group Amnesty International says that since President Xi came to power in late 2012, authorities have carried out “unprecedented attacks on civil society,” curbing freedom of expression, detaining lawyers and other rights activists. “As long as you don’t wear [rose] colored glasses and have an objective view, you will reach a fair conclusion about the important achievements women have made in China,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei recently said.

Analysts say Beijing is likely trying to enhance its prestige in the area of human rights and could be setting the stage for exporting government-funded non-government organizations across the world. “Internationalizing China’s NGO’s can facilitate a better understanding of the laws, policies, culture, communities and religion of different countries,” said Huang Haoming, executive director of government-backed China Association for NGO Cooperation, in a recent article. The American campaign, which bears the hashtag #Freethe20, takes up the cause of 20 imprisoned activists abroad, and it comes after an unsuccessful lobbying campaign to include activists among the speakers at the summit meeting. Such a move might prove to be discouraging for bold activists who take great risks to speak for the distress of unprivileged women.” Xi’s wife, Peng Liyuan, is a famous singer who is associated with the World Health Organization and other international bodies fighting problems like AIDS. Spouses of past presidents and premiers have hardly ever been seen in public; but, Chinese activists said the new visibility has not helped to improve the overall condition of women. She was arrested in July and is being held at a secret location on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.” But China isn’t the only country targeted for repressing women activists.

Women complain of widespread employment discrimination in many industries, and of glass ceilings where their rise in a company is inhibited by their gender. The U.S. campaign also includes three women from Ethiopia, two each from Azerbaijan, Myanmar and Vietnam, and one each from Iran, Eritrea, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Venezuela and Syria. Ukrainian helicopter pilot Nadezhda Savchenko, who was seized by pro-Russian separatists and is facing charges in Russia, and an unnamed North Korean political prisoner also are among the 20 women. Activists say that although the country has made some progress since then, passing laws on domestic violence and helping women make economic gains in the workplace, under the Xi administration, women’s rights have been hurt in the crackdown on civil society. Since the photos went up, Vietnam has freed Ta Phong Tan, a blogger arrested in 2011 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for “anti-state propaganda,” and Egypt’s president pardoned Sanaa Seif, sentenced to three years in prison last October for demonstrating without permission. “While we are pleased that two of the women we highlighted are no longer behind bars, none of the women we have profiled in this campaign should be in prison at all,” Power told The Associated Press on Saturday. “So we still have a very, very long way to go.

UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka says she wants to hear specifics and time frames to end unequal pay, repeal gender-discriminatory laws, end harmful practices like child marriage, the removal of barriers to girls finishing secondary school, and social services to reduce child care currently done by women and girls. “We need them to commit to increased women’s representation in political and economic leadership, with special measures, and to effective engagement of men and boys” in the campaign for women’s equality, she said. Xi, the meeting is a chance to show an audience back home that China is a leader on the world stage, even if it does not convince the world that China has overnight become a champion of women’s rights. It’s bash China time,” she said. “President Obama would be condemned for attending an event like that, particularly in the political environment we have today.” Instead, Ms. Power’s campaign has gained supporters in Congress, with a supportive resolution sponsored by Representative Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire. “I would have liked him to be there,” she said. “His voice in regard to women, which has been good, would influence the discussion at that table.” Ms. Women, is to use the anniversary of the Beijing conference on women’s rights to push the leaders of countries to make specific pledges, including enforcing laws against violence toward women, making affordable child care available and abolishing child marriage.

The first prisoner she discussed at the news conference in Washington was a human rights lawyer from China, Wang Yu. “Today, we are here to launch a campaign to recognize 20 of those women — women who should be advocating for women’s empowerment and part of the discussions around the conference in New York in three weeks, rather than being behind bars.

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