2 Dec 2015

China's feminists undeterred by detentions

Five women who all worked as activists for various feminist causes and had organised public events to raise awareness of a host of issues, from eradicating domestic violence to the need for more women's toilets in China. Few predicted the women would ever become targets of the authorities, since their causes seemed relatively unobjectionable. That is, until last March, when the women were planning a multi-city protest to call for an end to sexual harassment on public transport. The size of their networks and their determination to speak out in public appeared to unnerve the authorities. One by one, they were detained by police.

Zero tolerance for domestic violence

The protests the women had planned were supposed to be peaceful; the treatment they endured in Chinese detention centres was not. For more than a month, the women were subject to continual interrogations by police. All were forced to sleep on floors, and some were denied vital medication. One woman, Wu Rongrong, was repeatedly told by police that "we'll tie you up, throw you in a cell with men, and let them gang rape you". They also threatened the future of Wu's four-year-old son.

Li Tingting

Another woman, Li Tingting, was interrogated 49 times in 27 days. A global campaign to push for their release ensued, and there was an outpouring of relief on Twitter when the #FreetheFive group were released. Months later, the women remain under police surveillance. The group are pushing for their case to be withdrawn. Li Tingting told the BBC she believes the police want a swift conclusion too. "They probably want to retract the case now, because there's nothing to investigate," she explains. "They are also afraid of us demanding compensation. They need to close this case and return my passport to me."

More at BBC News