As the technology and innovation showcase, Expo 2010, begins in Shanghai, many local housing rights activists are being silenced by the Chinese authorities.
Over 18,000 families have been evicted in the city to make way for the Expo since 2000, further expanding the Shanghai housing rights movement, which is largely led by women.
However, human rights defenders who attempt to report on violations, challenge policies that the authorities find politically sensitive or engage others face the serious risk of abuse.
Many women human rights defenders in China, who started as grassroots activists and are petitioners in their own right, are working to provide practical services and advocate the rights of the community. Very few would label themselves human rights defenders and they are rarely regarded as such by the authorities.
Yet they face marginalization, prejudice and violence, as well as having to challenge gender stereotypes. Some are held under unofficial house arrest or in unofficial places of detention known as “black jails”.
Others are assigned to forms of punitive administrative detention such as Re-education Through Labour or ‘residential surveillance' without a possibility to challenge the lawfulness of their detention.
Amnesty International calls on the Chinese authorities to immediately release the Shanghai women housing rights activists, Duan Chunfang and Mao Hengfeng, and to stop the harassment of other housing rights activists.