Netherlands honors detained Chinese feminist, labor activist with rights award


#MeToo Activist Li Qiaochu was detained after publishing allegations of her partner’s torture in detention

Netherlands honors detained Chinese feminist, labor activist with rights award

Chinese feminist and rights activist Li Qiaochu, in an undated photo.

The Netherlands has honored detained Chinese feminist and rights activist Li Qiaochu with an award recognizing her dedication to human rights.

Born in 1991, Li Qiaochu has been committed to a wide range of human rights issues, including women’s rights and labor rights, the Dutch Embassy in Beijing said in a statement in awarding her the 2022 Embassy Tulip award.

“Besides helping and speaking out for others, she has also been vocal in describing her own experiences of being harassed, questioned and detained,” it said.

Li has been held in Shandong’s Linyi city since her initial detention on Feb. 6, 2021, on suspicion of “subverting state power.”

The award marks International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, and is intended to “honor local human rights defenders for their valuable and courageous work,” it said.

Her detention came after she posted details of torture allegations by her partner, the detained rights activist Xu Zhiyong, and rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi, to social media.

Her lawyer raised concerns over her mental health after being permitted a rare visit with her in August 2021. Li, who was diagnosed with depression two years ago, needs long-term medication, prompting concerns about her physical and mental health in detention.

“Inspiration to many”

The overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders network, which has previously honored Li with the Cao Shunli human rights award, has said she was also likely being targeted in retaliation for her engagement with United Nations human rights mechanisms.

“Your dedication to human rights is an inspiration to many,” Netherlands Ambassador Wim Geerts said in an open letter addressed to Li. 

“Whether it is your work on labor rights. Your helping hand to those being evicted from their homes. Your relentless struggle to promote gender equality and to fight against gender-based violence. Your solidarity actions for those who are unable to speak for themselves. And your commitment to always pursue justice and speak truth to power,” the letter said.

The Dutch award comes amid international calls for Li’s release, including from European Union officials attending the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in September.

Li, now in her early 30s, is a long-term campaigner against gender-based violence and for labor rights.

In 2017, she volunteered to provide information and resources to affected migrant workers when Beijing authorities forcibly removed them from the city, and boosted the visibility of China’s #MeToo movement by compiling data on sexual harassment.

She also campaigned against a culture of long hours in the workplace.

Truth to power

U.S.-based rights attorney Wu Shaoping said Li had never been afraid to speak truth to power.

“She’s not afraid of power: she has a strong fighting spirit and a sincere depth of feeling for the most disadvantaged in society,” Wu said. “Her spirit and courage have inspired a lot of people.”

“She knew that doing this kind of work would bring adverse consequences from the Chinese Communist Party,” Wu said. “She knew she was at the volcano’s edge, but she wasn’t afraid.”

“She has empathy for vulnerable groups like migrant workers … and then has to deal with the way the government treats her,” he said. “This kind of psychological burden is definitely not good for her depression.”

Li’s detention came as more than a dozen human rights lawyers and activists were harassed, summoned, detained, and arrested by police for gathering in the southeastern port city of Xiamen, including New Citizens’ Movement founder Xu Zhiyong and human rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi, who were later tried for subversion behind closed doors. 

Netherlands-based dissident Lin Shengliang welcomed Li’s award.

“I am very moved by the great tolerance and respect shown by the Dutch people towards victims of human rights abuses,” Lin said, adding that the Netherlands probably stood up to enormous political pressure by the Chinese Communist Party.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *