Main­land re­leases at least 3 fem­i­nist ac­tivists, says lawyer

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Main­land Chi­nese po­lice on Mon­day re­leased at least three of five fem­i­nist ac­tivists de­tained for over a month in a case which prompted an in­ter­na­tional diplo­matic out­cry, one of their lawyers said.

Wei Tingt­ing, Wang Man and Zheng Chu­ran were “re­leased on bail,” lawyer Liang Xiao­jun cited fam­ily mem­bers as say­ing. The re­lease in­di­cates that the trio is un­likely to face crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion.

He added that there was “no clear news,” about fel­low ac­tivists Wu Ron­grong and Li Tingt­ing, even as a dead­line for pros­e­cu­tors to for­mally charge them was due on Mon­day.

Po­lice de­tained the ac­tivists — all aged 32 or un­der — shortly be­fore In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day last month as they were pre­par­ing to hand out leaflets about sex­ual ha­rass­ment on public trans­port.

The five women had been linked to sev­eral stunts in dif­fer­ent Chi­nese cities aimed at high­light­ing is­sues such as do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and the poor pro­vi­sion of women’s toi­lets.

The three re­leased ac­tivists “will still have re­stric­tions on their free­dom,” ef­fec­tively pre­vent­ing them from en­gag­ing in fur­ther ac­tivism, said Liang, who rep­re­sents Wu.

“In the eyes of the po­lice, they are still sus­pects ... they will need to reg­u­larly up­date au­thor­i­ties on their where­abouts,” Liang said.

Po­lice orig­i­nally told lawyers the ac­tivists were sus­pected of “pick­ing quar­rels and pro­vok­ing trou­ble,” a vague charge in­creas­ingly used by au­thor­i­ties un­der Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping to de­tain and jail pro­test­ers for hold­ing small-scale demon­stra­tions.

They later changed the charge to “il­le­gal as­sem­bly,” which car­ries the same max­i­mum pun­ish­ment of five years im­pris­on­ment.

Main­land China’s rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party does not tol­er­ate or­ga­nized op­po­si­tion, and of­ten clamps down on small ac­tivist groups.

But the de­ten­tions were seen by rights groups as un­usu­ally harsh given the small scale of the women’s stunts and the fact that they had been praised in China’s state-run me­dia.

Po­lice in­ter­ro­ga­tions of the women — sev­eral of whom suf­fer from chronic health prob­lems such as asthma and an un­spec­i­fied heart con­di­tion — have fo­cused on a 2012 stunt named “Oc­cupy Men’s Rooms,” their lawyers said.

Chi­nese crim­i­nal l awyers said that given the date of their detention, pros­e­cu­tors had to for­mally charge them by the end of Mon­day, or po­lice would be obliged to re­lease them.

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