Gender equality activist who protested sexual harassment is banned from leaving China to study law at University of Hong Kong

Gender equality activist who protested sexual harassment is banned from leaving China to study law at University of Hong Kong

Wu Rongrong, who was part of a group of five women arrested in 2015, has also been denied a permit to study law at the University of Hong Kong

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Wu Rongrong was told she is banned from leaving the mainland for a decade.
Photo: REUTERS

One of China’s “feminist five” gender equality activists arrested two years ago has been denied a permit to study in Hong Kong, and told she is banned from leaving the mainland for a decade.

Wu Rongrong was one of five women arrested in 2015 for handing out anti-sexual harassment stickers for International Women’s Day. She will not be able to realise her “long-held dream of studying law in Hong Kong” since not being able to secure a permit means she will not be able to enrol at the University of Hong Kong’s law faculty by September 21, as told to by staff.

In June, Wu was admitted to a full-time master’s programme on a scholarship, and was granted a visa by Hong Kong’s Immigration Department in July. Her hopes of studying in Hong Kong were dashed on August 30 when the public security bureau of Luliang city in Shanxi province issued an official reply to her application for a new travel permit to Hong Kong, stating that police in Jiaocheng county had “clear facts, irrefutable evidence and proper basis” to reject her request because she was “barred from leaving China by law”.


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The “proper basis” came from the national security branch of the Jiaocheng county public security bureau, according to documents shown to Wu.

Human rights experts condemned the obstruction by mainland authorities, calling it illegal and retaliatory.

After the case against her was dropped last year, Wu began preparing to study law in Hong Kong, taking the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) three times. In late March this year, Wu applied for a new travel permit in Jiaocheng, where her household registration, a government record commonly known as hukou, was based. Her old permit had no more blank pages for stamps.

Wu did not expect any trouble, since another member of the feminist five had been allowed to travel generally free from harassment by authorities.

An employee at the government department that deals with immigration in Jiaocheng declined to comment when reached by the Post by phone.


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Maya Wang Songlian, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “This is the first time I have heard of a decade-long injunction.” Wu was being “singled out for retaliation” by authorities, Wang said.

“A county-level public security authority has no power at all to limit a citizen’s freedom to leave China,” said mainland-based human rights lawyer Chang Boyang. “And on what legal and factual basis have they decided to set a duration of up to 10 years?”

Chang said that if police wanted to deny departure from China due to an unfinished investigation, they must apply for an injunction with national authorities using clear and specific reasons.

Wu said she was determined to fight the decision. On September 6 she mailed documents for a lawsuit of the public security authorities in both Jiaocheng county and Luliang city to a local court in the Lishi district of Luliang.


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She said she might apply for the same programme at HKU next year if she is forced to miss the course this year.

“I don’t think any mainland university would accept a social activist like me,” said Wu, who wants to equip herself with legal knowledge to work with the country’s underprivileged.

A spokesman for HKU said students could apply to defer their studies if they were unable to arrive on time.

A government source told the Post that the immigration authority in Hong Kong, which has issued a visa for Wu, could do nothing because it was up to mainland authorities to also permit her to go.

Edited by Ginny Wong

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