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Cablegate: China's 2008 Woman of Courage: Ai Xiaoming

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIJING 006761

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STATE FOR G/IWI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL KWMN KPAO CH
SUBJECT: CHINA'S 2008 WOMAN OF COURAGE: AI XIAOMING

REF: STATE 126072

1. Embassy Beijing is pleased to nominate feminist
author, documentary filmmaker and activist Ai Xiaoming
to receive the 2008 Secretary's Award for
International Women of Courage. Ai has overcome
police detention, physical assault and state
censorship to fight for the rights of Chinese women.
In her books, films and classrooms, Ai has broken
through deep-seated taboos to battle discrimination
and violence.

2. Nomination details:

Last name: Ai

First name: Xiaoming

Title: Director of Gender Education Forum, Sun Yat-sen
University

Date of Birth: ovember 1953

Country of Birth/Citizenship: China

Passport #: TBD

Contact Information:
Sun Yat-Sen (Sun Zhongshan) University
Guangzhou, Guangdong
P.R. of China 510275
(8620)8403-5157
email: xiaomai05@gmail.com

Justification:

In a country where topics regarding sexuality and
violence against women are rarely discussed, and where
spousal abuse was only outlawed in 2002, Ai Xiaoming
does not dance around taboo subjects, she confronts
them directly on the stage and screen. In 2003, Ai
translated and directed China's first-ever performance
of the "Vagina Monologues," which she staged at
Chinese colleges in conjunction with the global "V-
Day" campaign against violence against women. This
was the first time issues related to gender, sexuality
and violence were portrayed on the Chinese stage.
Though authorities in Beijing and Shanghai banned the
play, she eventually succeeded in overcoming this
censorship in Shanghai to stage the show at a local
university.

In 2005, Ai released "Garden in Heaven," a documentary
detailing the fatal date rape of a young school
teacher. Prior to the release of this film, few in
China had even heard of the term "date rape." In
making the documentary, Ai followed the victim's
mother for two years as she sought justice for her
daughter. As a filmmaker/advocate determined to see
the teacher's boyfriend held accountable, Ai
personally attended an autopsy and railed against
official apathy to the crime. "...(M)any in our
society are as indifferent to her dead body as the man
who lay beside her on the last night of her life," she
wrote in 2003 as authorities were investigating the
case.

Ai Xiaoming is also a chronicler of citizen activism.
Her second documentary portrayed the efforts of
citizens in Taishi, a village in suburban Guangzhou,
to remove a corrupt official. In September 2005, Ai
wrote an open letter to Premier Wen Jiabao protesting
police brutality and the arrest of several Taishi
villagers. Less than two weeks later, Ai was attacked
in Taishi and warned to stop her advocacy. Despite
such threats, Ai continues to risk her freedom and
career (professors who are too outspoken frequently
face demotion, or worse) to promote human rights and
document women's grassroots activism. In January
2007, Ai wrote an open letter to Liaoning Party
Secretary Li Keqiang (a rising star in the Communist

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Party leadership) protesting the imprisonment of civil
rights lawyer Guo Feixiong. In July 2007, police in
Wuhan detained Ai and confiscated her videotape after
catching her filming residents demonstrating against
the demolition of their homes.

Ai Xiaoming is a rare breed in China, a respected
academic who does not restrict herself to journals and
campus conferences. As a pioneer of gender studies in
China, she links her work to the larger struggle for

BEIJING 00006761 002 OF 002


justice and equality in Chinese society. "To put it
simply, women's studies is against inequality..." Ai
once told an interviewer, and inequality "is not
something that only women undergo."

3. Ai Xiaoming was notified of this nomination. The
Embassy thanks ConGen Guangzhou for its assistance in
nominating Professor Ai.

4. Political officer Gregory May follows the women's
issues portfolio at Embassy Beijing. Contact info:
(8610) 6532-3831 x6742, or email maygc@state.gov.
Randt

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