【 Washington Post 】   Post Date: 11/26/2018
BETRAYING BIG BROTHER The Feminist Awakening in China
Author: Keith B. Richburg
More likely, I fear that this new feminist movement will be stamped out like so many promising movements before, including the early online activism that brought stories like Deng Yujiao’s to life. I learned about Deng while researching a book idea about how Internet activism had emerged as a serious threat to Communist Party rule in China — or so I thought. The Internet revolution that I believed I was witnessing was quickly crushed after Xi came to power and launched an unrelenting crackdown on the online space. That “revolution” was snuffed out, just like every other popular uprising over the past 30 years.
If feminist activism is any more lasting, it will defy the odds, and history.

Keith B. Richburg, a professor and director of the Journalism and Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong, is a former China correspondent for The Washington Post.

Almost a decade ago, in a hardscrabble mountain town in the remote Chinese province of Hubei, a 21-year-old woman named Deng Yujiao became an early, unwilling symbol of pervasive sexual violence against women by powerful men. Deng, a high school dropout, had a job giving pedicures at the seedy Dream Fantasy City karaoke and bathhouse in May 2009, when a local Communist Party bigwig came in with his cronies and demanded “special services,” a euphemism for sex. When she refused, the official slapped Deng’s face with a wad of money, pushed her onto a couch and climbed on top of her. Deng reached for the only weapon she had, a three-inch knife, and stabbed the big man in his neck, chest and stomach. She called the police as the official bled to death.

Deng was charged with “intentional homicide” and strapped to a bed in a psychiatric hospital. She might have stayed there, or been swiftly tried and executed, had her story not found its way to the Internet, where she suddenly became a national heroine. Fearing social unrest, authorities released Deng and allowed her to relocate to another province.

Deng came to mind recently as the #MeToo movement exploded in the United States, rippled across the globe to Asia and finally reached China — where it has run smack into a great wall of official repression and cultural obduracy. Some see this burgeoning women’s movement as a turning point that is already rattling the pillars of China’s patriarchal, authoritarian regime. Researcher Leta Hong Fincher, in her new book, “Betraying Big Brother,” writes that for the first time since 1949, “organized feminist activists independent of the Communist Party have tapped into broad discontent among Chinese women and developed a level of influence over public opinion that is highly unusual for any social movement in China.”

Key Words: feminist movement, MeToo, China
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