Female Participation Soars to 7% at 2014 National People’s Congress
BEIJING — This year’s National People’s Congress made history as over 7% of the deputies were women, a 2% increase on 2008. The 213 female deputies represent the highest level of female participation in Chinese political history, with the exception of 1993 when the all-female staff of tea refillers was included in the statistics.
With his expensive watch, neat side-parting and Chinese flag lapel pin, Liu Fengkang isn’t your typical deputy. He is one of the increasing number of men in the Communist Party advocating further involvement of women in Chinese politics.
“Of course I support more females in politics,” Liu said. “I like to watch them, talking all smart and casting votes. It’s sexy.”
This year also marks the first time female deputies were allowed to speak and cadre Chen Liwen seized the opportunity. Chen gave a personal and passionate speech emphasizing the importance of gender equality legislation that was riveting, though interrupted several times by catcalls.
“I want every young woman out there to believe that they can be the first female leader of modern China,” she said to great laughter.
Such sweeping changes in the political arena echo broader changes in Chinese society. The NPC is looking to pass laws that prevent women from being beaten if they refuse have children and being fired if they don’t.
But some legislators caution that having more women in the parliamentary body is dangerous. Zhang Chenxiao, chairman of the work group on women’s health, told reporters that “women are, let’s face it, emotional creatures. And the last thing Chinese politics needs is emotion.”
For his part, deputy Liu believes that complete gender equality is almost here.
“Chinese women should be proud. Seven percent representation is a great achievement,” he said. “Women make up—and I’m ballparking here—around 12% of the general population. We’re close.”
When asked why he thought women only made up 12% of the general populace, Liu said, “They make up more than 12? It sure doesn’t feel that way.”