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Women groups call for end to attacks on women human rights defenders in Asia-Pacific

“Governments are targeting human rights defenders for speaking about the issues that people face"

Women activist across the Asia-Pacific called on governments in the region to end all forms of attacks against all women human rights defenders.

“Women workers’ exercise of their rights has long been impeded by state-sponsored violations of the right to organize and freedom of association,” said Kara Taggaoa, an activist from the Philippines.

Triggered by the recent arrest of Elizabeth Tang of Hong Kong, feminists and women activists noted what they described as the “alarmingly worsening attacks” against women human rights defenders in the Asia-Pacific.

Padmini Weerasooriya of the Women’s Centre Sri Lanka said the shrinking of civic spaces in the region has become one of the major issues that they are facing these days.

“Governments are targeting human rights defenders for speaking about the issues that people face,” said Weerasooriya.

She said human rights defenders face threats, attacks, and other forms of violence, and women human rights defenders are exposed to additional, unique and gender-specific risks such as gender-based discrimination, threats, and marginalization and barriers.”

Elizabeth is a prominent women leader in the international labor movement who returned to Hong Kong to visit her husband, imprisoned union leader Lee Cheuk-yan.

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She was arrested on March 9, a day after the International Women’s Day, and charged with “foreign collusion.”

She was granted bail of HK$200,000 (US$25,498) and was ordered to hand over her passport as bail condition, two days after detention.

“The arrest of labor rights defenders represents an attack on the rights and freedoms of all workers, not just that individual human rights defender,” said the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW).

“This type of harassment is a clear attempt to instill fear in those who are campaigning for fairer working conditions and a more just society,” added the group in a statement on Monday, April 17.

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