Visiting California’s Largest Women’s Prison

Top: Judge Lillian Sing talks about shackling and forced sterilization at the women in prison symposium. Center: Executive Director Kamm meets with Chinese activist Teng Biao. Bottom: Director Magdalen Yum speaks to entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

Executive Director John Kamm and Programs & Publications Associate Rene Kamm joined Judge Lillian Sing on a visit to Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) in Chowchilla in January. Spurred by headlines on the forced sterilization and shackling of women, Judge Sing sought to gather information on pregnant prisoners. From 2006 to 2010, doctors contracted by California’s corrections department sterilized nearly 150 women prisoners without required state approvals, raising questions about coercion. California banned the shackling of pregnant prisoners two years ago. Shackling during childbirth was prohibited by the state of California in 2005, but 32 states continue to allow this practice.

Judge Sing was the first judge to visit CCWF in more than three years. She presented her findings at Women in Prison: An International Symposium on the Bangkok Rules. Several participants opined that routine visits to prisons by judges, lawyers, and other criminal justice practitioners and students would significantly impact decisions on the necessity and length of incarceration, especially those that affect parents with minor children and people convicted of non-violent crimes.

Reaching Audiences, Rights Defenders

In November, Executive Director Kamm spoke about the reform resolution adopted by the Communist Party at its Third Plenum at the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. The same month, Director Thomas Gorman hosted a Friends of Dui Hua luncheon at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, attended by Kamm and Director William McCahill, to thank supporters and brief them on Dui Hua activities.

Returning to Hong Kong in February, Kamm lectured students in Professor Frank Ching’s course, “China’s External Relations and Their Economic Impact,” at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Kamm spoke on China’s past, present, and future relationship with the United States and how it has played a role in China’s human rights situation.

In California, Kamm gave a speech titled “Xi Jinping’s China: Prospects for Economic and Political Reform” at the Stanford Park Hotel. Director Magdalen Yum hosted the event to reach out to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who do business in China. Kamm also spoke at the historic Francesca Club in San Francisco.

In January, Chinese activist Teng Biao (滕彪) visited Dui Hua’s San Francisco headquarters. He discussed his teaching in Hong Kong and the current situation in China with regard to rule of law and civil society.

Beijing: Official Meetings, Research

Executive Director Kamm meets with Vice Minister Li Baodong, China’s senior diplomat in charge of multilateral affairs, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing in November.

In November, Executive Director Kamm visited Beijing and Hong Kong to carry out advocacy efforts on behalf of political and religious prisoners. Among the Chinese officials he met was Vice Minister Li Baodong, China’s senior diplomat in charge of multilateral affairs. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs featured the meeting on its English and Chinese websites, stating that Kamm and Li shared views on human rights in the United States and China.

Then US Ambassador Gary Locke met with Kamm the day before he announced his resignation. Kamm and Locke routinely met in Beijing and together advocated on behalf of US citizens detained in China, including Xue Feng (薛峰). America’s incoming ambassador to China is former Montana Senator Max Baucus, who worked closely with Kamm to maintain China’s trade status with the United States in the 1990s and early 2000s. In a 2000 Senate hearing, Baucus called Kamm “the single most effective American in promoting the release of political prisoners and uncovering the names of previously unknown prisoners.”

Kamm and Dui Hua Programs & Publications Manager Megan Ko conducted research at the National Library of China in Beijing and uncovered the names of dozens of individuals imprisoned for participation in banned religious groups such as Falun Gong, Mentu Hui, and Eastern Lightning. ■