Story at a glance
- A group of feminist artists covered a hill in China with more than 1,000 banners printed with abusive social media comments.
- Women on social media in the country have been subjected to harassment for voicing opinions on feminism, human rights abuses and other topics.
- China-backed media has written critical articles on some of the women being harassed.
Last month, a group of feminist artists covered an “unknown hill in the Chinese desert” with more than 1,000 red and white banners reading, “I hope you die, b—-“; “Little b—–, screw the feminists”; and more.
Each banner is printed with an abusive message women received on social media, used by the artists to create an “internet violence museum.” They were all actual messages sent to women, a direct act of harassment anonymized by social media.
Some artists and activists established a temporary physical “Internet Violence Museum” to show how online violence on the Internet in China brutally attacked feminists. This project responded to the recent persecution of feminists by nationalist trolls and major online platforms. pic.twitter.com/PbNVbtH98a
— FreeChineseFeminists (@FeministChina) May 9, 2021
Most were received following weeks of tense discussion surrounding how women using platforms such as Weibo are treated, after a woman, Xiao Meili, posted a video of a man throwing a hot liquid at her when she asked him to stop smoking.
“When the Xiao Meili incident happened, a lot of feminists were being trolled, including myself,” said Yaqing, an artist involved who didn’t use her real name. “We wanted to make the trolling words into something that could be seen, touched, to materialise the trolling comments and to amplify the abuse of what happens to people online.”
Other women who have used social media to highlight issues such as human rights violations in Xinjiang have also faced abuse and harassment, with people online doxxing them, threatening them and their families, doctoring nude photographs with their appearance and accusing them of being traitors and separatists.
One such woman is Chinese Australian researcher Vicky Xu, who was harassed after reporting with colleagues from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on more than 80 international brands that utilize forced labor, including in China.
“I was lynched in the Chinese media,” Xu told ABC News Australia. “Along with a lot of my peers who study Xinjiang.”
Following the report, Xu became the target of a campaign of harassment; she quickly began trending on Weibo, an article in the China state-affiliated Global Times accused her endangering other Chinese Australians, fake nude photos of her spread on social media, and her family and friends were questioned and detained.
Following the abuse and fallout, Weibo removed approximately 20 accounts, each belonging to the harassed women. In a statement, Weibo said it removed the pages for disseminating “illegal and harmful information”
“Before this saga, I think few on Weibo spent much time thinking about Uyghurs or forced labour,” Xu said. “I’m receiving this much hate because people were feeling righteous – imagine if they had access to more information about the plight of Uyghurs.”
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