Salt Laker Annette Cumming says the women's forum in China seems to be unfolding without much trouble. "Only occasionally can you tell you are in a communist country," she told the Deseret News in a phone call from Beijing Sunday night. However she was aware that some delegates were being followed and searched and that Irene Santiago, the conference executive director, had demanded that the harassment stop.
It was Monday morning in China, the beginning of the United Nations' portion of the Fourth World Conference of Women, and Cumming said she wasn't sure how much of those proceedings she would be allowed to witness, since she is not an official delegate.Cumming is on the national board of directors for Planned Parenthood. She traveled with about 40 other Planned Parenthood officials and says they breezed through customs and found the police and all the security people to be helpful and friendly. Her main complaint is that even though they are staying in a tourist hotel, they are not allowed to get together for a meeting. "It's just ridiculous.
"They say all the meeting rooms are occupied and they are clearly not." Sunday night, her group thought it had finally found a place to meet - in the hotel bar. After they talked for only a few minutes, the music was turned up until they could barely hear each other.
Daily, Cumming has been going back and forth between her Beijing hotel and Huairou, where the nongovernmental (NGO) meetings are being held. The ride takes less than an hour, Cumming says. The discussions that seem to be drawing the most attention are the controversial subjects, such as the genital mutilation of young girls. Muslim and Catholic countries seem to have sent delegates approved by their governments, Cumming says.