RELATIVELY independent women's groups have begun to appear in China although Beijing still imposes strict restrictions on expression and association.
In its 102-page report on human rights violations of Chinese Women, the New York-based Human Rights in China described the emergence of new women's groups as a 'hopeful sign'.
Founded and run primarily by urban elites, these groups have provided assistance and information to women in relation to health, domestic violence and family affairs.
'The new organisations could play a crucial role in the development of an independent women's movement in China,' the report said, 'while their work, along with that of academics, is helping to focus attention on the status of women as well as providing much-needed services.' But the group said impact and outreach was 'necessarily fairly' limited since rural women are the major victims of many human rights abuses in China.
And the groups are very much in the minority. A larger number of organisations have been closed down, and activists met with hostility from the authorities.
Late last year, officials shut down the Chinese Women's Museum set up in 1991 in the central city of Zhengzhou, claiming that its exhibits had not been approved.
A former anchorwoman of the Huaguang Hotline in Guangxi province was fired for her outside 'connections and activities'.
The report noted that ad hoc discussion groups had also been disbanded for inviting foreign speakers and women leaders subjected to harassment for 'promoting homosexuality and human rights'.