Episode 6: Hooligan Sparrow and Activism in China
On this episode of East Asia for All, we discuss a 2016 documentary by filmmaker Wang Nanfu. Wang follows activist Ye Haiyan as she travels to the southern most island of China, Hainan Province, to publicly decry a scandal which swept the nation in 2013: the rape of seven young girl students by a government official and local principal.
Ye is better known by her internet pseudonym, Hooligan Sparrow, for Wang Nanfu’s documentary is name. A feminist activist, Ye began blogging about sex worker experiences in 2005 but first went viral in China in 2010 for doing sex work for free to bring attention to the rights of sex workers across China and the value of sex work as useful labor.
In Hainan, Wang Nanfu captured how Ye Haiyan’s protests attempting to stir up support for the prosecution of the government official and local principal were met with hostility by plainclothes police. In Hooligan Sparrow, we get a rare glimpse into the experiences of Chinese activists demanding that the government enforce its own laws. As Ye, Wang, and anyone associated with them are systematically harassed from city to city, rendered essentially homeless (as captured by Ye’s friend, artist Ai Weiwei) the film reveals the use of new methods of repression and state surveillance.
It was our pleasure to be joined on this episode by Dr. Gail Hershatter, Distinguished Professor of History at the University of California Santa Cruz. Professor Hershatter is a scholar of Modern China focusing on the history of labor, gender, and sexuality. Her new book, Women and China’s Revolutions, explores the tumultuous revolutions of twentieth-century China as they shaped, and were shaped by, Chinese women.
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References and Further Reading:
China supreme court orders tougher sentencing for child abuse, South China Morning Post
Person of the Week: Ye Haiyan, China Digital Times
Ye Haiyan's Belongings at 6:35 a.m. on July 6, 2013, 2013, Ai Weiwei: According to What? Brooklyn Museum, 2014
Hooligan Sparrow, official film website
Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China, Leta Hong Fincher