Following UNiTE’s the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, we highlight women-lawyers and human rights defenders who work to end violence against women and girls around the word.
Ms. Wang Yu started practicing law in 2004 in Beijing. She is a member of the human rights lawyers group of China, set up in 2013. She is by far one of the few female lawyers who have remained steadfast in face of the suppressive environment for lawyer practice in China. Wang began to focus on human rights and public interest cases in 2011 and has been involved in cases of disability discrimination, religious freedom, land rights and illegal restriction of personal freedom by government and law enforcement officials, and activists’ cases.
Wang Yu was one of the first who was arrested during the large-scale crackdown against critical lawyers and human rights activists by the Chinese authorities. She was held firstly on suspicion of inciting subversion. The allegation was changed to “subversion of state power” in January 2016. She was released on bail in August 2016. One of the prominent cases she worked on before her arrest, was a sexual assault case in 2013 involving six underage girls and their school headteacher in Wanning City of the Hainan Province
For the case, Wang Yu was appointed by the parents but the government forced the parents to cancel the appointment. Although Wang Yu was unable to represent the parents in the legal procedure, she continued to campaign with the parents by visiting the Education Bureau, demanding more information making use the Regulation of the PRC on the Disclosure of Government Information. Wang Yu later represented a female activist, Ye Haiyan, who was harassed by the local governments in Guangxi for campaigning for the case.
Despite pressure on the girls’ parents to stay quiet, Wang Yu took up their case, risking her safety to inform the public about their rights, and fighting for the incident to be classified as rape.