Chinese leader Xi Jinping appointed He Rong, a jurist with over 30 years of experience in Chinese courts, as the country’s new Minister of Justice.
The 61-year-old is one of the 11 women elected to China’s 205-member Central Committee last year. There are currently no women in the 25-member Politburo or top-level Standing Committee.
With a background in law, He joined the Communist Party in 1984, climbing the ranks of Beijing’s court system and Shaanxi’s provincial standing committee, where she rose to deputy chief.
She moved to Beijing in 2020 to take up a new role as the vice president of the Supreme People’s Court, China’s top court, where she was in charge of daily affairs, according to state media.
A statement announcing He’s appointment as Justice Minister on Sunday emphasized that she was a woman, with the word woman written in Chinese in parenthesis after her name.
He replaces Tang Yijun, who was elected as chairman of the Jiangxi Provincial Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
Ever since the founding of the Communist Party in 1949, leaders have said that a key feature of the party, and what distinguished the new order from “Old China,” was that men and women were to be seen as equals.
More than 70 years later, this sentiment could not be further from the truth. The Communist Party has continued to promote conservative ideas about family structure and women’s role in society.
In the wake of China’s demographic crisis — last year the population fell for the first time in six decades — a series of incentives have been rolled out to encourage women to have more children and boost the country’s birth rate.
But growing pressures to conform to gender roles, paired with China’s bleak economic outlook and housing crisis have deterred many women from starting families. On social media, some have vocalized their frustrations with the party’s values, calling for equal opportunities and reform.