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Liu Xiaobo cremated in ‘private ceremony’, amid fears for wife’s safety

Liu Xia attends the cremation, but rights activists say they have not heard from her in three days

The Nobel laureate and democracy icon Liu Xiaobo has been cremated in north-eastern China, Chinese authorities have announced, amid growing fears for the safety of his wife, Liu Xia.

The veteran dissident died on Thursday, aged 61, becoming the first Nobel peace prize winner to die in custody since the 1935 recipient, German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, died under surveillance after years confined to Nazi concentration camps.

Speaking at a press conference in the city of Shenyang, where Liu died, government spokesperson Zhang Qingyang said his cremation had taken place at a local funeral parlour following a short mourning service early on Saturday morning.

Lius body was cremated in accordance with the will of his family members and local customs, Chinas official news agency, Xinhua, said in a brief dispatch.

Zhang claimed the private ceremony had been attended by family and good friends of the dissident although friends and supporters have said they were ordered not to travel to Shenyang by Chinese security services. Mozarts Requiem was played.

The spokesman told reporters Lius wife, the poet and photographer Liu Xia, had been in attendance and had been given her husbands ashes. She was in very low spirits, he added, according to AFP.

As the revered democracy activist was cremated, friends of the couple said they were growing increasingly concerned about the well-being of Liu Xia. The 56-year-old has been living under heavy surveillance and in almost total isolation since her husband won the Nobel prize, in 2010, and had hoped to leave China along with Liu Xiaobo before his death.

We have lost touch with her now for three full days, Jared Genser, a US human rights lawyer who represents her and her late husband, told the Guardian. Im incredibly concerned about her health and welfare.

China News Service, a Communist party-controlled news agency, claimed on Friday that Liu Xia was a free woman who was deliberately shunning her friends and relatives because she wanted to grieve in peace.

Zhang, the government spokesman, repeated those claims on Saturday as Lius cremation was announced. Liu Xia is free, he said, according to Reuters, without revealing her whereabouts. I believe the relevant departments will protect Liu Xias rights according to the law, Zhang added.

According to AFP, Zhang claimed Liu Xia was emotionally grieving and did not want too much outside interference.

Funeral
Funeral ceremony for Liu Xiaobo. Photograph: Supplied

Genser rejected claims that Liu Xia was free as a sick joke.

It leaves me incredulous to think that the Chinese government would think that anybody would believe such a claim: that she is grieving and does not want to be disturbed. I mean, come on. That is just totally ridiculous.

Genser added: We all know the truth. The truth is clear as day. She has been under house arrest without charge or trial for seven years and even after her husband is dead that appears not to be good enough for the Chinese government.

Shang Baojun, a Chinese lawyer who represented Liu Xiaobo and was his friend, said he had not attended the funeral. I know nothing about it, he said by phone, before explaining that it was not convenient to talk a common expression in China indicating that someone is coming under pressure from authorities to stay silent.

The Global Times, a Communist party controlled tabloid, chose to mark Lius cremation with a vicious personal assault. He was paranoid, naive and arrogant, the newspaper said in an English-language editorial. Chinese society opposes and despises him.

Deification of Liu by the west will be eventually overshadowed by Chinas denial of him, it added, branding the Nobel laureate a disruptive player to Chinas development theme.

Genser called for international pressure to help Liu Xia escape this Kafkaesque nightmare that has been her life.

My heart breaks for her. It is just terrible. We have to get her out. We cant live in a world in which she is not free, he said.

Additional reporting by Wang Zhen

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/15/liu-xiaobo-cremated-in-shenyang-amid-growing-fears-for-safety-of-his-wife

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China’s ‘war on law’: victims’ wives tell US Congress of torture and trauma

Women whose husbands were targets of Communist party crackdown on human rights lawyers call for US sanctions

The wives of some of the most prominent victims of Xi Jinpings crackdown on civil society have stepped up their campaign for justice, backing calls for US sanctions against Chinese officials involved in allegedly barbaric cases of torture and abuse.

Addressing a congressional hearing in Washington on Thursday, the women, whose husbands were among the key targets of a Communist party offensive against human rights lawyers, detailed the physical and psychological trauma inflicted by Chinas so-called war on law.

Chen Guiqiu, who fled to the United States in March, told of how her husband, the attorney Xie Yang, had been imprisoned and brutally tortured because of his work defending victims of land grabs, religious persecution and dissidents.

She described her husbands ordeal as an example of Chinas lawlessness and claimed that at his recent trial Xie had been forced to refute detailed claims that he had been the victim of sustained and brutal campaign of torture.

Wang Yanfeng, the wife of Tang Jingling, a lawyer and democracy activist who was jailed in 2016 in what campaigners described as a gross injustice, said her husband had suffered repeated spells of abuse, threats and torture. Today other [lawyers and political prisoners] are still suffering from such torture, Wang said, calling on US president Donald Trump to challenge China over such abuses.

In a video message, Li Wenzu, the wife of lawyer Wang Quanzhang, said she had heard nothing from him since he was seized by police at the start of the campaign against lawyers in July 2015. I am deeply concerned about my husbands safety. I dont know how his health is. I dont know whether he has been left disabled by the torture. I dont even know whether he is alive.

Wang Qiaoling, whose husband, Li Heping, recently emerged from a 22-month stint in custody, said he returned home looking 20 years older and had told of being forced to sit for hours in stress positions and being shackled with chains. He suffered from very cruel and sick torture, Wang added.

Also giving testimony was Lee Chin-yu, whose husband, the Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che, vanished into Chinese custody in March after travelling to the mainland. I stand alone before you today to plead for your help for my husband, Lee said, calling on Washington to pressure China to end her husbands illegitimate detention.

Since Chinas crackdown on lawyers began almost two years ago, its victims wives have emerged as a relentless and forceful voice of opposition, often using humorous online videos and public performances to champion their cause. They say they have done so in defiance of a campaign of state-sponsored intimidation that has seen them trailed by undercover agents, struggle to enrol their children into schools or be evicted from their homes.

Terry Halliday, the author of a book about Chinas human rights lawyers, said the lawyers wives had opened up a new line of struggle that we have not seen before in China.

These women have become a very powerful and visible public presence both of criticism of the government, of appeals for the release of their loved-ones but also impugning China in the eyes of the world. It is remarkable.

Its a whole new front, Halliday added. It is not so easy for the government to silence wives and daughters.

Thursdays hearing was part of a push by human rights groups to convince the Trump administration to use a law called the Magnitsky Act to bring sanctions such as travel bans or property seizures against Chinese officials involved in human rights abuses.

We should be seeking to hold accountable any Chinese officials complicit in torture, human rights abuses and illegal detentions, said Chris Smith, the Republican congressman who chaired the session and said he was compiling a list of potential targets.

Smith said he hoped such action could help end the shocking, offensive, immoral, barbaric and inhumane treatment of Chinese activists that has accelerated since Xi Jinping took power in 2012.

While President Xi Jinping feels feted at Davos and lauded in national capitals for his public commitments to openness, his government is torturing and abusing those seeking rights guaranteed by Chinas own constitution, Smith said.

China has rejected claims of torture against the human rights lawyers it has imprisoned, dismissing such allegations as fake news.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/19/chinas-war-on-law-victims-wives-tell-us-congress-of-torture-and-trauma

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72-year-old Chinese woman fulfills lifelong dream to have gender reassignment surgery

In order to undergo genderreassignment surgery in China, one must take a series of tests, answer more than a thousand questions, and get the approval from direct family members for the life-changing operation. For 72-year-old Xin Yue of Beijing, all of that was worth the effort in order to become the woman she always wanted to be.

Now, two months after a breast implant and vaginal reconstruction surgery, Xins seven-decade dream has finally come to fruition. Xins daughter and wife, Leng Rui, supported Xins decision, with their daughter reportedly joking that now she has two mothers.

“I didn’t think too much . All I wanted was for her to be happy,” Leng, Xin’s wife of 47 years, told the Southern Metropolis Daily.

Its what Xin has wanted since she was a child and her parents, who already had two older boys, dressed her like a girl and braided her hair. Xin said she liked it, but after entering school, she had to cut her hair and dress like a boy, style changes that made her unhappy.

Eventually, Xin met Leng. They got married and had a daughter, because, as Xin explained, her traditional beliefs and family pressure compelled them to start a family.

After retiring in 2000, Xin began surfing online and discovered forums for transgender people. Without Leng knowing, Xin began taking hormones to increase her estrogen levels, but she didnt feel healthy with that choice and eventually told Leng she wanted gender reassignment surgery. In 2015, Xin had her testicles removed, and though her mood improved, she decided on undergoing the entire gender reassignment surgery.

“I have completed my wish to become a woman,” she told local media after the surgery, via China Daily.

It wasnt an easy task.

As the Atlanticpoints out, the Chinese government made new guidelines in 2009 that forced those who want gender reassignment surgery to apply to police to change the gender on their official registration, to undergo therapy, to be older than 20, and to inform their immediate family.

Xin also had to pass a psychological test. But now that the surgery is over, shes looking forward to a bright future.

In the future, my wife and I can use the term ‘sister’ to call each other. We will still live together,” she said. “My skin is still soft and white like a woman in her 20s. I feel I’m only in my 30s and I can live to 100 years old.”

H/T Mashable

Read more: https://www.dailydot.com/irl/72-year-old-chinese-women-gender-reassignment-surgery/

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‘I know he is alive’: wife of Taiwan activist seized by China pleads for release

Lee Ming-che has been detained by Beijing authorities amid a targeting of activists, dissidents and scholars based abroad

The wife of a Taiwanese human rights activist detained in China for over a month without charge has vowed to take her fight for justice to the US and European Union, urging them to pressure Beijing to release him.

It has now been 40 days since Lee Ching-yus partner, best friend and confidante suddenly disappeared while travelling to visit friends in Guangzhou, southern China.

Beijing, which views democratic Taiwan as a renegade province, admitted only after 10 days that Lee Ming-che, 42, a community college worker known for supporting human rights, had been detained for allegedly threatening national security.

He is feared to be the latest victim of an escalation in Chinas repression of rights and free speech.

It is only through international support that we can force a country that encroaches on human rights to stop this action, Lee Ching-yu told The Guardian in her first interview with the British press. She intends to seek help in Washington DC and Brussels next month.

Under standard Chinese criminal law, Lees husband should have been charged or released on Monday, after 37 days in custody.

Instead, her hopes of a speedy resolution were shattered on Wednesday when Chinas Taiwan affairs office announced that Lee was still under investigation, that his health was good, and that he has clearly explained the relevant situation to his family in a letter.

The letter, which contained scant information, was delivered in early April by an unofficial middleman Lee Ching-yu did not know whether to trust.

It was my husbands handwriting but he made no connection with me, she said. He did not write that letter voluntarily.

Lee, also 42, has struggled largely alone, with the support of a few local activists, to uncover the truth.

With little government support, she has fended off unidentified brokers offering help through unofficial channels.

One suggested her silence and inaction might buy her husbands freedom, or at least spare him the humiliation of a video confession. But Lee has refused to strike a backroom deal.

She is defiant but the strain of her ordeal has made her visibly more gaunt and she frequently fights back tears. I have to keep a strong face in front of the media, but when I see my husbands photo I get very emotional, she said.

The couple met at college 20 years ago and were drawn to each other through a shared passion for human rights.

Lee Ching-yu became a researcher at the Shin Ming-te foundation, studying the history of Taiwans own dark period of martial law, when thousands were disappeared. Her work both gives her strength and haunts her. I can imagine what my husband might have gone through, she said.

Lee Ming-che kept his human rights work low key. Supporters believe he may have been targeted after speaking openly on Chinese messaging service WeChat about Taiwanese democracy.

The values and beliefs that my husband holds and spreads would not be charged in any democratic or civilised country, said Lee.

She broke down describing how he had tried to help the poverty-stricken families of Chinese activists, imprisoned for their beliefs.

At least I know my husband is alive, she said. Others who disappear dont receive the same media attention and they might be in more danger. When I realise how severe the situation in China is, its hard to stay calm.

Lee has approached the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances for help.

Her husbands case has been complicated by Taiwans lack of international clout and by frozen diplomatic ties between Taipei and Beijing over Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wens refusal to endorse Chinas view that the self-governed island and mainland are part of a single Chinese nation.

Taiwans government maintains it is working behind the scenes to resolve Lees case, but local NGOs argue they could do more.

Mrs Lee is already standing so strongwe need support from the government, not only to just keep it low key, said E-Ling Chiu, head of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights.

Many fear Lee may have fallen foul of a harsh new Chinese law to monitor and control foreign-funded NGOs, enforced earlier this year as part of a crackdown on civil society.

The environment for foreign and domestic human rights NGOs had become treacherous, said Maya Wang an Asia researcher with Human Rights Watch.

The case of Mr Lee fits within the greater pattern of a new trend of the Chinese government targeting activists, dissidents, or even scholars based abroad, she said. All of these cases deserve equal press and attention.

However, Lee may also have become a pawn in internal Chinese politics by factions opposed to President Xi Jinpings perceived mild approach to Taiwan, ventured Michael Cole, a Taipei-based political analyst.

It would be difficult for Xi to back down while demonstrating strength over Taiwan, he said. Equally, Tsai had to tread cautiously.

It would not serve Mr Lees interests if she came out guns blazing. Ultimately his case is part of something thats much bigger.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/28/wife-of-taiwan-activist-seized-china-pleads-for-release-lee-ming-che