Hou Wenzhuo

Hou Wenzhuo

Profession: Human rights worker
Status: Living outside of China
Reason: Participation in human rights torch

Latest updates

  • No further updates. Case is closed.

NOTE: Case is closed. No further information or updates will be posted.

Personal Information

Name: Hou Wenzhuo (侯文卓)
Gender: Female
Hometown: Tianjin City, Tianjin Municipality
Age: 39


  • Undergraduate in English from Sichuan University in Chengdu (1988-1992)
  • Peking University for Anthropology studies (1992-1995)
  • Refugee program at Oxford University (1998-1999)
  • Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School (2001-2003).

Profession(s): Human Rights defender, Director/founder of the human rights organization “Empowerment and Rights Institute” (仁之泉工作室), Director/founder of the “Golog Community School”. Fellow at University of Ottawa, Canada 2009-2010

Type of work: Petitioners, migrant workers, training grassroots activists on election and land rights, coordinator, outreach, women's rights

Previous non-activist work: UNICEF, UNIFEM

Human Rights work/background

Hou Wenzhou first got involved in Human Rights and political activism during her studies at Sichuan University in Chengdu during 1989 and the political upheavel that swept the city. Hou became one of the student leaders, and organized marches and speeches, supporting continued political reform, and participated in a student delegation to Sichuan’s provincial governer.

Her first detention came after the demostration had been suppressed, when she was detained for two month.

Hou would continue her studies at Peking University, Oxford's Refugee Studies Program and at the Harvard Law School. Around this period she also worked for UNICEF and UNIFEM in Beijing. She was the directer for the Migrant Workers’ Program, a small organization working to protect the rights of migrant workers.

In 2003 she founded the now defunct Empowerment and Rights Institute, a Beijing-based Human Rights group, which she led for many years.

Current Situation

Recently, in addition to on-going persecution by the Chinese authorities, Hou has come to face another challenge in the form of an unexpected pregnancy. At this time her third trimester (April 2009), Hou continues to endure numerous violations including police monitoring, harassment, sabotage and the confiscation of her possessions, Hou needs to relocate, yet again, to somewhere outside of China.

  • Hou has since left China for north America.

Prior Violations

Hou, as well as members of her group, the Empowerment and Rights Institute, were the subject of a harsh crackdown in 2005 and 2006. Hou left for the United states in November 2005, waiting for the situation to improve before returning
in 2006.

During 2007 and 2008 Hou spent considerable time in Western China's Qinghai province, to decrease government suspicions and surveillance, at which time she founded founded the Golog Community School.

Hou was put under periodic surveillance throughout 2007 and early 2008 and even assigned a specific police officer required to check in with her regularly.

In May 2008, while the China-US Human Rights dialogue was ongoing in the capital, Hou was put under house arrest by the “State protection” police. A few days later (May 30), after being 'released' from her house detention, Hou was seized in public and taken, against her will and without official warrants, to the infamous Qincheng prison, where she was illegally held for several weeks. During her imprisonment, she was not permitted contact with anyone outside the prison, and police officers would routinely try to intimidate her.

Following Hou’s release in late June of 2008, she was forced to leave the apartment she had been staying in and all her possessions, both personal and work-related, was confiscated. Forced into homelessness, Hou spent the rest of 2008 living in semi-hiding, staying with friends and relatives, all the time under the surveillance of and occasional harassment of a variety of authorities, including the State Security, the Beijing municipal and local police, as well as the neighborhood committees in some of the areas she stayed in.

Hou was finally able to settle in a temporary home in late 2008 and although has been able to resume regular meetings with co-workers, friends and Human Rights defenders, has continued to be the subject of police surveillance. There is also substantial evidence showing that Hou’s computer, email and phones have been hacked into and are also the subject of careful surveillance.

Additionally, local police visited Hou’s parents in Tianjin in early spring 2009, and although little was said, her parent’s were intimidated and interpreted the meeting as a warning regarding her continued Human Rights related work.

  • Hou has not received a release certificate from Qincheng prison;
  • Hou has not received a receipt of the goods confiscated;
  • Hou has still not been told why she was detained, nor has she been given a copy of a detention copy.

Other prior violations:

  • Office raided in November 2005;
  • Detained in 2005 before scheduled meeting with United Nations Special Representative to the Secretary General on the situation of Human Rights defenders.

All updates since posting

  • As of July 2009, Hou is now living outside of China.

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