Ye Haiyan – Fighting for Sex Workers of China

SOMETIMES it takes a single person with courage to awaken a society. So it may be in the case of Ye Haiyan, a women’s rights activist in China who has sacrificed nearly everything to bring to attention the condition of sex workers in her country.

Ye Haiyan, born to poverty in a tiny village in rural China, began working as a sex worker just so she could highlight the abuse and suffering of the many thousands of such women in China.  For raising her voice on this controversial issue, Ye Haiyan lost her home and was chased from city to city until she took refuge in her childhood village.

Ye Haiyan’s story is the subject of a documentary titled Hooligan Sparrow, produced by filmmaker Nanfu Wang. Wang followed Haiyan and her fellow activists as they protested outside the school and engaged in other peaceful demonstrations that highlight the plight of women in the sex trade in China. Wang herself had to contend again and again with people trying to take away the film footage. Often she could only record audio by hiding the mic inside her clothes. The result: this documentary is a rare and riveting look at an aspect of Chinese life and society that is otherwise unknown.

In the film, Wang follows Ye and her fellow activists as police and hired thugs chase them from town to town. In one chilling scene, only the sounds of Ye getting beaten can be heard.

Wang says now “Ye can’t hold street protests anymore. She has trouble traveling because she is under constant surveillance, and her passport has been taken away.” Wang, who is married to an American and lives in New York added, “Police threatened my family and urged them to stop me from making my documentary. I haven’t tried to go back to China yet. I don’t know if it’ll be safe to go.”

Adapted from Joanna Chiu’s Qz article

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