2017 Oak Fellow: Jinyan Zeng
Jinyan Zeng, a Chinese filmmaker, blogger, activist, and scholar, is coming to Waterville in August as the 2017 Oak Human Rights Fellow. This is the first time in its nearly 20-year history that the Oak Institute for Human Rights has selected someone from the People’s Republic of China.
Oak and Colby are thrilled to host Ms. Zeng, who has a remarkable set of skills — academic intelligence, artistic creativity, and profound courage. Her presence on campus will allow us to learn more about the human rights situation in China and explore the power of documentary film to shake up the status quo.
Zeng has spent more than a decade and a half fighting for people with HIV-AIDS, women facing discrimination, factory workers suffering exploitation, a natural environment threatened by pollution, and political dissidents experiencing repression. This work sometimes upsets the Chinese party-state, which at different times has detained and surveilled her.
In 2006, Zeng made her first documentary (“Prisoners in Freedom City”) about living under house arrest in Beijing. Her most recent film, “We the Workers,” had its world premier at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in January 2017. During the production of that film, the Chinese party-state detained several of the featured labor activists, placed a few of them under house arrest, and forced still others to make “confessions” on state television. Zeng is a co-founder of the Chinese Independent Documentary Lab in Hong Kong, and the leading curator of an independent Chinese film series.
In 2017, Zeng earned a PhD from the University of Hong Kong, where she studied film, gender, and cyber-activism. Her dissertation focused on the work of Ai Xiaoming, a feminist professor of literature and a documentary filmmaker in China.
During the fall, when Zeng will be in Maine, she looks forward to editing footage for a new documentary on the pro-democracy “Umbrella Movement” in Hong Kong. And she is eager to talk with Colby faculty, staff and students who are curious about China, film, and human rights.