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Civil Society and Rights Activism in China at CCWA

On Monday, May 4th, we went to the Union Club for a Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA) program titled "Civil Society and Rights Activism in China" where we sat with Professor Paul Schroeder from the Political Science Dept. at CWRU and Mr. Peter Hoffman, a businessman (formerly a teacher of English) who lived in China from approximately 1988 to 2012. The program consisted of presentations by three human rights activists from China who were Mr. Lu Jun, Founder and Chief Coordinator of the Beijing Yirenping Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting social justice; Ms. Bin Xie, Executive Director of Zhenzhou Yirenping, a disability rights advocacy organization; and Mr. Zhou Dan, an openly gay public interest lawyer. All of them talked about the struggles and successes along with the frustrations and set backs that they have encountered while trying to advance the causes they work for and believe in. The main things that they talked about were disability rights, the advancement of women, and LGBT rights. One of the focal points was the one-month detention of five feminist activists which provoked an international outcry earlier this year.

The three activists were introduced by Professor Timothy Webster of the CWRU School of Law introduced the three speakers and noted that what they were doing was important because without a strong civil society there can not be genuine democracy.

Also there tonight was our good friend, Dr. Anthony Yen of the Confucius Institute who passed out a brief paper regarding his own viewpoint on China. Among the things that he said were like the United States "China is not perfect, there are still many social issues and problems; but like the States, China has been making progress, especially over the last three decades."

Dr. Yen concluded by saying that, "as history has demonstrated, a healthy China-USA relationship is critical for China's economic and social development. So let us work together with them to help them achieve their development goals, to help them make progress in human rights including minority rights. China is moving towards the right direction. Give it time and be patient. Remember Rome wasn't built in a day."

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