Cablegate: Prc Nominee to the Secretary's 2010 International
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SUBJECT: PRC NOMINEE TO THE SECRETARY'S 2010 INTERNATIONAL
WOMEN OF COURAGE AWARD
REF: SECSTATE 111471
BEIJING 00003213 001.2 OF 002
1. (U) Embassy Beijing is pleased to nominate Guo Jianmei for
the 2010 Secretary's Award for International Women of
Courage. In her long battle to provide Chinese women with
equal rights, protections and opportunities, Guo Jianmei has
established herself as a trailblazer and first-generation
women's rights lawyer in China. She walked away from a
comfortable career to establish a center to provide free
legal aid for disadvantaged women only six years after the
Tiananmen crackdown, a time when non-government organizations
(NGOs) in China were few and the government was extremely
critical of civil society entities that challenged the status
quo or cast a negative light on PRC society. Guo Jianmei is
recognized as an engine for change in Chinese legal reforms,
especially as related to women. Her tireless efforts to
speak out against traditional views of women and girls, fight
domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, and
safeguard the rights of women have resulted in major changes
in government policy and law. Guo long has faced
considerable obstacles in pursuit of her work. Recently,
Peking University officials asked Guo to direct her legal aid
center to stop public litigation or disassociate from the
university. Guo Jianmei, with the support of her staff, has
decided to leave the university and continue taking casework,
a course of action that she deems to be the best means to
push forward legal advocacy and reform.
2. (U) Nomination details:
Given name: Jianmei.
Job title: Director, Lawyer.
Organization: Peking University Women's Law Studies and
Legal Aid Center.
Date of Birth: October 13, 1961.
Place of birth/citizenship: Henan Province, PRC.
Address: Third Building of Qianhejiayuan, Rm #1304, 108
North 4th Ring East Rd., Chaoyang District, Beijing, China.
Phone number: 86-10-8483-3270.
Passport number: Ms. Guo is in process of applying for a new
passport, number forthcoming. Her old passport (G30021597)
was recently stolen in Germany.
Languages: Mandarin Chinese; requires translation services
3. (U) Justification:
Guo Jianmei is China's best known female lawyer and a
trailblazer who 14 years ago established China's first NGO to
provide legal aid to women, the Peking University Women's Law
Studies and Legal Aid Center. The Center is the symbol of
women's rights protection in China and under Guo's leadership
has become a significant source of legal advocacy and reform.
Guo is helping drive the practice of public interest law in
China, a role that has put her under considerable pressure,
taking on benchmark cases to drive legislative and policy
reform in areas such as rural women's land rights, workplace
gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and violence
against women. Guo Jianmei has faced down regulatory and
legal obstruction, social prejudice, and other difficulties
to build a pioneering women's legal advocacy and reform NGO
at a time when China remains fairly closed to and suspicious
of civil society groups. In late November, Peking University
instructed Guo to either cease legal casework, or
disassociate the Center from the university; Guo has decided
the Center will continue taking cases and is preparing to
leave the university.
Guo Jianmei was born to teachers in a poverty-stricken area
of rural China. The conditions in the village and the plight
of the women that surrounded her left a profound impression,
one that continues to drive her work today. Guo graduated in
1983 from Peking University's Department of Law and went on
to work at the Institute of the Judiciary, the Legal
Consultant Office of the National Women's Federation and the
National Lawyers' Association China Lawyers Magazine.
After attending the Fourth International Forum for Women
Lawyers in 1995, Guo Jianmei established her legal aid center
at Peking University, which has become China's most prominent
legal aid center for women and a magnet for women legal
activists and civil society leaders. Shortly after, Guo
resigned her post as assistant editor at China Lawyers
Magazine to devote herself to providing legal aid to women.
Guo Jianmei met with stiff resistance and lost nearly all of
her early cases due to what she characterizes as her
underestimation of the challenges facing women seeking
recourse in the Chinese legal system. She has explained that
"a lawyer providing free legal aid to women is often regarded
with contempt. But this only strengthened my resolve."
Over time, Guo Jianmei found success through her sheer
determination and persistence in pursuing fair and equal
treatment of women in Chinese law and society. She refused
to give up or bow to pressure, even when cases dragged on for
BEIJING 00003213 002.2 OF 002
years. Guo was one of the first persons, let alone women, to
build a successful NGO in China focused on law and public
policy related to women's issues and the disadvantaged. She
achieved success by working openly and transparently with
other NGOs, law firms, the university, the government, and
civil society leaders to support the rights and interests of
Chinese women. Through the Center, Guo launched programs in
support of public policy reform and women's rights,
established the first non-government website and hotline to
provide legal services nationwide, and built a network of
legal aid partners including anti-domestic violence
advocates, lawyers, hospitals, public officials, courts,
schools, media, NGOs and psychologists in 28 provinces in
Under Guo Jianmei's direction, the Center began to focus on
five categories of lawsuits: protecting rural women's rights
and interests regarding land use; job discrimination against
women; protecting the rights and interests of female domestic
workers; sexual harassment in the workplace; and domestic
violence. To date, the legal aid center has provided free
legal counseling services in over 80,000 cases, including
nearly 3,000 class action law and public litigation suits.
The issue of domestic violence in China continues to be an
area of serious concern for Guo Jianmei. In 2001, she
successfully pushed for the revision of China's Marriage Law
, challenging PRC lawmakers to take another step away from a
traditional patriarchal, Confucian view of women and girls.
Guo also helped draft China's first domestic violence laws
that are currently being considered by the PRC government.
Guo believes it imperative that China revise relevant laws
and formulate more sophisticated operational procedures
regarding the handling of domestic violence cases to ensure
that women across China's social classes receive equal
treatment and benefit.
Guo Jianmei's long-standing association with Peking
University appears to be coming to a close. In late November
2009, Peking University informed Guo Jianmei that if she and
the Center continued taking casework, she would have to
disassociate the Center from the university. Despite the
problems she is facing without the support of Peking
University, Guo Jiamei has decided to continue public
litigation work precisely because casework is the best means
through which to push forward legal advocacy and reform, and
ensure Chinese women the protections and rights they are owed.
4. (U) Guo Jianmei has been informed of her nomination for
this award. She expressed gratitude to Embassy Beijing for
the honor of representing the courage of Chinese women in
their struggle for equal treatment under the law and in
society. If chosen, she would welcome the opportunity to
travel to Washington, D.C., to accept the award.
5. (U) Embassy Contact: PolOffs Meredith Sumpter, phone:
86-10-8531-4381 or Tiffany DeSpain, phone: 86-10-8531-3538.