Chinese Feminist Activists, “The Beijing Five,” Still Detained; US Ambassador Calls for Release
You can't stop the signal.
China had an interesting way of celebrating International Women’s Day last month. They celebrated the first draft law on domestic violence in the country’s history, while simultaneously arresting ten feminist activists for “picking quarrels” over that very change. The Chinese government did a sweep of multiple cities on March 6th. Five of the activists they detained have since been released, but the other five—Li Tingting, Wei Tingting, Zheng Churan, Wu Rongrong and Wang Man—remain in custody. Now, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, along with others in the international community, are urging China’s government to release them.
Much like Russia’s Pussy Riot, these ladies, referred to as The Beijing Five, were involved in large, theatrical protests—gathering dressed as blood-splattered brides to bring awareness to domestic violence, singing feminist songs on the Beijing subway, and creating Styrofoam toilets to push for more female bathrooms
However, according to CBS News, their friend and fellow activist, Ye Jinghuan, describes the women as moderate:
Ye Jinghuan, a friend and fellow activist, was detained twice, once overnight, when she tried to visit them. “Those five kids are so moderate,” Ye told CBS News. “They were never radical or violent.”
That apparently doesn’t matter in China, especially during their National People’s Congress—a scripted show of “democracy” that’s big on pomp and patriotism, but small on actual legislation and legitimate debate. The activists had planned several actions for International Women’s Day on March 8th, but had purposely made them smaller actions, because they knew that the political climate would be more hostile during the People’s Congress. It seems any form of protest is reason for detention. Since Chinese President Xi Jinping took office two years ago, detentions of journalists, lawyers, and women’s rights activists have quadrupled.
And to this day, the Beijing Five have not been officially charged, even as they endure near-constant interrogations, sleeping on concrete floors, and sub-standard medical care (one of the women suffers from Hepatitis B and was denied her medication, another suffered a mild heart attack while in custody). Meanwhile, security agents continue to comb China for other feminist activists who’ve participated in these protests which, again, amount to not much more than singing, dressing-up, and passing out leaflets and stickers, and so many Chinese feminists have gone into hiding.
However, as we learned in Serenity, you can’t stop the signal. Despite the huge risk, over 1,100 college-age activists in China signed a petition demanding the release of The Beijing Five. Meanwhile, the international community of activists is doing what it can, as can be seen via the Twitter hashtag: #freethefive.
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