China, Hong Kong: New Territories Female Indigenous Residents' Committee

The women are brave to form the Ntfirc and to exercise their political rights in the face of violent reaction from conservative patriarchal powers."

— New Territories Female Indigenous Residents' Committee

Formed in October 1993, the New Territories Female Indigenous Residents’ Committee (Ntfirc) was active in the 1994 campaign to abolish the discriminatory ordinance on women’s rights to inherit property in the New Territories. Along with other groups, they encouraged their sisters to fight for their rights, using peaceful means, like signing petitions and singing songs, to lobby for public support. The success of the campaign has not only guaranteed their civic rights, it has also contributed to the women’s and civil society movements.

In 1994, the Ntfirc held peaceful negotiations with the government, legislators and conservative, powerful men of the New Territories to campaign for the abolition of the discriminatory part of the New Territories ordinance, that ruled out the rights of women to inherit land and property. For this Ntfirc members were victimized and labeled traitors. A village head, for example, refused to sign the papers that Tang Ying, an Ntfirc member, needed to have access to her mother’s grave site. Since she had no rights as a daughter to bury her mother back in the village, Tang had to beg the village head to do so. She was threatened with violence because she criticized the old disciminatory customs against women. Under the auspices of Ntfirc women came together to demand their rights. They included women like the 73-year-old Tang Yuen Tai, who joined the campaign because she did not want the next generation to be victimized by this customary rule of inheritance. There was much opposition, sometimes threats, and even violence from their fellow males. To counter this the indigenous women organized a signature campaign in forty walled villages to secure support from the indigenous community. In order to create public attention, they organized demonstrations, seminars and exhibitions, and wrote traditional songs and dramas in the Hakka dialect that spoke of how indigenous women suffered under the discriminatory custom. The women’s perseverance and fighting spirit was the main reason for the success of the campaign, which later included favorable legislative changes and the consolidation of different social forces, particularly the participating women’s organizations.

Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centres