Last month, Chinese authorities arrested core members of the country’s modern feminist movement ahead of an anti-sexual violence protest the group had planned for International Women's Day. The young women, known for their “guerilla-style” theatrical demonstrations, were planning a public awareness campaign around sexual harassment on public transportation.
As it seems, the government felt so threatened by the idea of female activism that they not only detained 10 protestors for “provoking social instability,” and refused to release half of them, but they could also charge them for “picking quarrels and causing a disturbance” – charges often used to jail government critics in China.
The five women – Wu Rongrong, Wei Tingting, Wang Man, Zheng Churan and Li Tingting – remain in jail even after a month of women’s rights activists from around the world demanding their release. They have been subjected to near-constant interrogation. One of them even had a mild heart attack while in custody and another one seeks medication for hepatitis, which the police refuse to give her.
“They have been very successful in using performance to provoke social dialogue on gender issues,” said a Chinese blogger Zeng Jinyan. “I think we can call them the first modern, independent, feminist, grassroots actors in Chinese history.”
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In the past, these feminists shaved their heads to protest education inequality, stormed men’s restrooms to point out public toilet inequity when it comes to women and wearing fake “blood-stained” wedding gowns in a tourist district to call attention to the issue of domestic violence.
Ironically, this year not only marks two decades since the Fourth World Conference on Women took place in Beijing, it is also the year when China is poised to adopt a first of its kind anti-domestic violence law.
Massive protests are currently being held around the world to show solidarity with the detained activists. Even Hillary Clinton criticized the incident and demanded Chinese government to release the women – a statement that China condemned.
The LGBT organization All Out started a petition for their release and so far more than 86,000 people have signed of a 100,000-signature goal.
A hashtag #FreeBeijing20Five is also circulating Twitter.
In China speaking out against sexual harassment is “creating a disturbance.” Disturbance is restricting NGOs fighting for universal rights.— Samantha Power (@AmbassadorPower) March 12, 2015
China with its gender disparities needs more like #FreeBeijing20Five. If they truly care about these issues, these women would not be jailed— shad (@shxdwell) April 7, 2015
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