All of the photos in this article were sent to us by our Observer, Lu Haitao. They were published on the microblogging site Weibo, but were swiftly censured by the Chinese authorities.
Security forces violently suppressed and arrested an estimated thirty female police officers who were protesting the termination of their employment contracts in the city of Chongqing in southwest China. The women are no longer welcome back at work because they were recruited under the disgraced Bo Xilai, the former Communist Party Chief for the municipality, who is accused of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.
The female officers began their protests inside a high school. Chongqing’s police chief ordered the school be sealed-off, but the women managed to get out and regrouped outside the Communist Party’s local headquarters, where they blocked the road and stopped traffic. According to several witness accounts, police officers slapped and hit the women with truncheons, before arresting them and taking them to the police station. They also confiscated the protesters’ phones, preventing them from taking and distributing photos of the incident.
The women were detained over Wednesday night and, according to one of their colleagues, are currently under house arrest in police dormitories. They are forbidden from communicating via social networks.
In June 2011, the former police chief, Wang Lijun, who received a 15-year prison sentence for his involvement in the Bo Xilai scandal, hired 150 female police officers responsible for traffic control and street patrols. They were handpicked from 1,700 hopefuls. Following four months of training, they received formal police uniforms and equipment, and headed out on their first patrols. At the time, the media praised the women, deeming them positive symbols for the city.
However, they were considered ‘seasonal’ workers and were given two-year fixed-term contracts via a private human resources company. Wang Lijun promised to offer them official contracts as police officers at the end of their initial two years. But the women’s employment opportunities now look bleak: the Ministry for Public Security, responsible for hiring the police force, has refused to renew their contracts, which ended earlier this year. The authorities responded to their petitions demanding renewal by suggesting they take Wang Lijun to court.
Our observer, Lu Haitao, remembers how Bo Xilai’s decision in 1994 to form a female police team received a mixed reception from the public. Some questioned the need for an all-women brigade, and since Bo Xilai’s dramatic fall from grace public animosity has grown towards his pet projects.