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March 10, 2015

China Detains Women’s Rights Activists on International Women’s Day

By Darren Gan

Five Chinese women’s rights activists are still missing after authorities detained at least ten on March 6. Most of them were preparing a national campaign against sexual harassment in public places to mark International Women’s Day.

Feminist and LGBT activist Tingting Wei was the first to be taken away and questioned by Beijing Police. Later, local police also carted off Man Wang and Maizi Li (legal name Tingting Li) in Beijing, Rongrong Wu in Hangzhou, and Churan Zheng in Guangzhou.

As a college student, Li launched “Occupy Men’s Toilet” to advocate for more public toilet access for women. Wu spends her time promoting equal rights for women, minority groups, and the disabled in China’s eastern Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. Zheng is known for sending open letters to important corporations calling for equal employment opportunities for women. Wang is active among various gender equality advocacy networks.

A Beijing source said the activists’ lawyers haven’t been able to access their detained clients. According to the New York Times, a woman answering the telephone at the Beijing Haidian Police station denied that any of the activists were being held there.

A local activist who asked not to be identified told me: “Police have sought out many other feminist organizers throughout the country as well, and many demonstrations have been cancelled.”

Chinese women’s rights and LGBT activists have been calling attention to the arrests on social media since March 6. One Beijing-based activist wrote, “In this country we have gotten used to being censored, removed, listened to, watched, arrested... We always thought everything will improve soon, but actually we’re not sure where we are going. I hate this country and also doubt myself.”