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Hooligan Sparrow: Child rape and state intimidation in China on PBS’s POV

Human-rights activist Ye Haiyan in a still from Hooligan Sparrow, airing on PBS's POV
Human-rights activist Ye Haiyan in a still from Hooligan Sparrow, airing on PBS’s POV

Hooligan Sparrow, a chilling documentary about child rape in China and the government’s efforts to silence protesters, airs on PBS as part of their POV series.

The hard-hitting film by debut filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows the story of human rights activist Ye Haiyan as she attempts to raise awareness of a harrowing incident in 2013 where six girls aged 11 to 14 were sexually assaulted by their school principal and an education official.

Ye Haiyan, aka Hooligan Sparrow, made headlines when she took part in a protest following the incident reading: “Hey principal, get a room with me. Leave the kids alone!”

What followed was a terrifying example of state intimidation and censorship in action as they tried to keep her quiet though a combination of secret police surveillance and threats — which also materialised into a break-in and beating.

After she defended herself with a knife, on May 2013 she was arrested on allegations of assault.

But Ye Haiyan is not someone who is going to lay down easily. As she says at one point in Hooligan Sparrow: “I have a tough personality. They can’t stop me by arresting me or even killing me.”

Filmmaker Wang herself was also subject to intimidation and had her life threatened. The documentary was made possible only after she smuggled footage out of China in August 2013.

The documentary also follows human rights lawyer Wang Yu, who joined the protests in support of the abused schoolgirls alongside Ye Haiyan.

Following a smear campaign, she and her husband Bao Longjun were arrested in 2015 and are both being held without trial in China, while her son is under house arrest.

Hooligan Sparrow airs at 10pm on PBS.


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