Feminist activists detained in China after Women's Day crackdown

The women had planned to observe International Women's Day by putting up leaflets about sexual harassment in Chinese cities

BEIJING – Five Chinese feminist activists remained in police custody Monday after authorities detained at least 10 women’s rights proponents across the country in the run-up to International Women’s Day, according to a Chinese activist.

Activist Feng Yuan said the activists still in detention were Li Tingting, Wei Tingting, Wang Man, Zheng Churan and Wu Rongrong, the founder and executive director of the Hangzhou-based rights group Women Center. Feng said their lawyers have not been able to reach them since their detentions Friday and Saturday.

Feng said the women had planned to observe International Women’s Day by putting up leaflets about sexual harassment in Beijing, Hangzhou and Guangzhou. Women Center board member Lu Jun said the activists have previously observed International Women’s Day with similar activities but without interference.

Public security has been heightened around Beijing this past week as the country’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, holds its much-watched annual session. On Saturday, the meetings included a news conference on gender equality and women’s rights issues in China. The nearly two-week long congress ends Sunday.

Police in Beijing and Guangzhou did not respond to requests seeking comment.

“We’re worried that they’re still detained,” Feng said from New York, where she was participating in U.N. women’s issues events. “We don’t understand how this has to do with public safety. And this goes against what the Communist Party and the government says they want to do to build a safer, crime-free society.”

Feng said supporters in the U.S. have taken up the detained Chinese activists’ cause, with banners calling for their release seen during a march held in New York Sunday for International Women’s Day.