Women protest in an unconventional way by shaving their Headsby Shruthi Venkatesh December 28 2018, 6:06 pm Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins, 13 secs
Four wives of most prominent rights lawyers and activists have shaved their heads in protest over the “persecution” of their husbands by the government. The women gathered in the central park of a Beijing apartment complex on 17th December and cut off their hair in front of neighbours and a small group of invited foreign journalists.
They were the wives of lawyers who were detained during a July 2015 sweep known as the 709 crackdown. One of lawyers was Wang Quanzang who was detained in August 2015, less than a month after Beijing launched a nationwide crackdown on lawyers and activists that critics said that it was designed to prevent China’s emerging rights defence movement. Most of the detainees were later released, although several reported being tortured while in detention. The event later came to be known as the “709 crackdown” after the day - July 9 on which it began.
Four women shave heads in China (BBC)
The women took turns shaving each other's heads, placing the hair in see-through plastic boxes alongside pictures of them with their husbands. They later headed to China's Supreme People's Court to petition over their husbands' treatment.
Li Wenzu, who says she has been unable to visit her husband, rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, since he went missing in the 2015 crackdown, told reporters that the act was to protest against the way her husband’s case was being handled. Li said judges in Wang's trial had unlawfully delayed proceedings and prevented her from appointing a lawyer of her choosing. Wang is being held in Tianjin on suspicion of subverting state power, but both Li and seven lawyers she has appointed to try and represent Wang have been unable to visit him, she said. “We can go hairless, but you cannot be lawless,” they chanted, a pun in Chinese, as the words for “hair” and “law” sound similar.
Requests for comment was faxed to China’s Supreme People’s Court and the Tianjin Number 2 Intermediate People’s Court, where Wang’s case is set to be heard at an unknown date, went unanswered.
Li, Wang and other family members of human rights lawyers and activists who have been detained or jailed attempt to keep pressuring the government into allowing their release. The authorities have responded using “soft” detention measures, such as house arrest, to keep family members from getting their message out, rights activists have said.
Since taking office in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has overseen a crackdown on dissent, with hundreds of rights lawyers and activists being detained, arrested and jailed.