One Billion Rising global activists around the world stood together in solidarity with our activist feminist sisters from China – Li Tingting, Zheng Churan, Wei Tingting, Wang Man and Wu Rongrung, who were arrested for their work to create awareness and education on violence against women and girls. The One Billion Rising activists tirelessly demanded for their release in their respective communities and countries. The five women were recently released conditionally after over five weeks in detention.
This is an update from an activist sister on the ground:
“All five were released ON BAIL from Beijing Haidian custody yesterday evening and each was picked up by their families from their hometowns. Everyone who fought together in the last 37 days were so encouraged and felt great relief. We cried a lot. All the colleagues and friends who were going into exile for avoiding to give any evidence to the police WILL come back and the whole movement continues. Experienced activists and lawyers believe the international support is related greatly to the release. The authority aimed to frighten the civil society and feminist movements, but only under such worldwide and strong protest from both governments and civil organizations they could be all released. Thank you to the One Billion Rising networks!
Below is the comment a Chinese professor named Wang Zheng in University of Michigan wrote to New York Times, which may help you catch a total picture after this phased win:
“However, we insist that the police should drop all charges against the five rather than treating them as “suspects”, restricting their physical mobility and job opportunity, and deprive them of their freedom and rights as citizens. Our fight for their total freedom continues.”
In the Chinese context, this is the first time that a group of detained social activists are released all at once. This decision suggests: one, the unprecedented huge mobilization of global feminist and other non-governmental organizations’ support is effective. The massive grassroots based petitions not only pushed their own respective state politicians to respond, it also demonstrated clearly to the Chinese government that this petition is not instigated by a nation- based political enemy, but by a global political force – transnational feminists and other grassroots organizations for social justice and equality. This global political force cannot be suppressed by the Chinese state, or any national state. And no nation state should treat this global political force as its enemy.
Two, the Chinese government is not a monolithic entity and the decision is a compromise among different political factions or state branches. It can be imagined how ferocious the contentions behind the scenes were over how to handle this situation. The final compromise shows clearly that there were officials in the system who pushed very hard towards a positive solution.
For both above reasons, today I am hopeful. History does not end but evolves with contentions of various forces in an indeterminate manner. I am grateful for the amazing transnational support to five Chinese feminists. I feel fortunate that there are still officials in the Chinese government who chose to stand on the side of social justice.
And we have all noticed the UN’s awkward silence in the global uproar against the detention. Now the global activists are shifting their gaze to the UN who has the plan to co-host the Global Summit for Women with China, and see if they will do something constructive to set the five feminists totally free.
Finally, I am hopeful also because throughout this process I have been witnessing the rise of an increasingly large group of extremely brave young feminists that include men. The detention and the global support have totally galvanized a whole cohort of young Chinese in and outside China, turning them into social activists with deep commitment and a global vision. They are absolutely my sunshine through this ordeal. As Yan Wenxin, a male lawyer who was involved in the case, commented, “The feminist group’s amazing solidarity, tenacity, and braveness is truly admirable.” Yes, the event has turned the term “feminist” into a glorious one. Today so many young women on the Wechat proudly declared, “I am so proud of being a feminist!”
We’ll fight and never give up or be frightened. Thank you for all your help.”
Their release is a victory today, but we must continue to watch and stand with vigilance to ensure that they are not thrown back into a cycle of harassment, violence and injustice. We, global One Billion Rising activists from all over the world, continue to rise in solidarity alongside our sisters in China and will continue to rise against any and every form of political repression being done to them and to women around the world. As a global community, we will continue to demand for Justice for our sisters in China until they are truly freed from all forms of harassment, fear, terror and from political, social and economic injustice – and until they can do their most important work of defending and promoting women’s rights with dignity, freedom, respect and with no risk to their lives. We will continue to show our collective strength as a global solidarity network of people from all over the world who continue to RISE for Freedom, for Accountability and for Justice.
Abha Bhaiya (India)
Rada Boric (Croatia)
Marsha Pamela Calderon (Guatemala)
Anne Christine d’Adesky (Haiti)
Eve Ensler (United States)
Lynne Franks (United Kingdom)
Lindsey Horvath (United States)
Khushi Kabir (Bangladesh)
Dianne Madray (Guyana)
Marya Meyer (United States)
Andres Naime (Mexico)
Mily Trevino Saucedo (United States)
Aimee Sissoho (The Gambia)
Susan Celia Swan (United States)
Isatou Touray (The Gambia)
Monique Wilson (The Philippines)
For more information about their release and continued struggle READ AP Exclusive: Chinese Activist More Determined After LockupBy By DIDI TANG and JACK CHANG The Associated Press.
(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
The most prominent of five recently released Chinese women’s rights activists feels her dedication to the cause has grown stronger after spending 37 days in detention with interrogators who blew smoke onto her face and insulted her sexual orientation, her girlfriend and her lawyer said.
Li Tingting, 25, an openly lesbian campaigner for women’s issues, has been at the center of an international outcry over China’s detention of activists. Her girlfriend, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition she be identified only by her English name of Teresa, relayed comments from Li for the first time since the activist’s conditional release from a Beijing jail last Monday. Teresa spoke in the presence of Li’s lawyer Wang Yu, who also confirmed Li’s comments.
“‘Feminism is my soul,'” Teresa quoted Li as saying. “‘I thought a lot and came to believe what I do cannot be wrong. My belief is firmer. Feminism will surely be inseparable from me.'”
Li and four other women, ranging in age from 25 to 32, were detained in a criminal investigation for their plans to hand out stickers and flyers denouncing sexual harassment, in a case reflecting the Chinese leadership’s deep distrust of any efforts to organize civil action in a group outside the ruling Communist Party’s control.
Known for colorful, high-profile protests — from “potty parity” sit-ins to street theater denouncing spousal abuse — the five women drew what has been, for recent years, an unusual amount of attention overseas. Foreign governments, rights groups and luminaries including U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton criticized the arrests as an overreaction by a repressive Chinese government, and urged Chinese authorities to drop the investigations against the women.
China’s Foreign Ministry has responded by saying the detentions are an internal affair being handled according to law, and urging foreign countries not to interfere.
The five were released, but remain under investigation and have been told not to travel outside their home cities or meet journalists.
AP reporters traveled to Li’s home village of Hongtongying, a community of wheat fields and willow trees on Beijing’s outskirts, but were trailed by unidentified vehicles. In a nearby town center, the journalists were able to see Li with Teresa as they walked arm-in-arm from a tea house to a hospital, but could not interview Li. Her friend and the lawyer said Li would abide by state security officials’ demands that she grant no interviews. They also released a written statement by Li, in which she pleaded innocence.
“What I have done does not provoke trouble, but is mild advocacy that does not amount to any crime,” Li wrote. “I demand police dismiss the case immediately, remove coercive restrictions on me and return innocence to me.”
The lawyer said the demand that Li hold no interviews has no basis under Chinese law.
“The activism by Li Tingting not only complies with Chinese law, but should be lauded because she is promoting the law,” Wang said, referring to China’s law, policy and declarations championing equal rights for women.
“She should not have been treated so illegally by authorities. For a young woman who is able to do what she’s done, I think she should be considered a hope for China,” Wang said.
Li will need some time to readjust but has been in good spirits despite her ordeal, her friend and the lawyer said. In the statement, Li said she was deprived of sleep and had cigarette smoke blown onto her face while she was restrained in an iron interrogation chair.
“It made my nostrils and eyes dry and uncomfortable,” Li wrote. “I could not move at all and felt my dignity was greatly insulted.”
Interrogators shone strong light into her eyes and repeatedly called her homosexuality “sickening” and “shameless,” Li wrote.
Her lawyer Wang said the acts by interrogators amounted to torture.
Teresa, who also was briefly detained by police but said she didn’t want to give her full name out of fear for her personal safety, said Li was “delighted” to learn of the support she received from Clinton and from one of her idols, Eve Ensler.
Author of the “Vagina Monologues,” Ensler called for people around the world to protest in front of Chinese embassies and consulates in support of Li and the four other Chinese women’s rights activists.
She and other rights advocates have attributed the early release of the five to the international pressure on the issue, which threatened to embarrass China ahead of a key anniversary in September of a high-profile women’s rights conference in 1995.
Born just weeks after Chinese troops crushed student pro-democracy protests in the heart of Beijing, Li grew up in a working-class household. She came out early as a lesbian to her parents, who reacted badly to the news. She found her tribe in college where she joined other activists working on HIV, gender equality and gay and lesbian issues. With her at the helm, the activists began staging tongue-in-cheek, media-friendly public protests, which she called performance art.
Li and other women once strolled down a busy Beijing shopping street wearing blood-stained wedding dresses and warning passing couples about domestic abuse. In another action, several activists boarded a Shanghai subway train in miniskirts and metal breastplates after female passengers reported they had been groped. She also helped organize sit-ins at public restrooms to demand more toilets for women.
Chinese authorities once tried to silence Li by offering her a job on a governmental women’s federation if she would stop her protests and social media work. Li turned down the offer and later suspended her work in the face of growing police monitoring. Her lawyer Wang said Li had always been cautious about her activism, seeking legal advice before she took action.
Li was detained just ahead of International Women’s Day, which Chinese authorities mark by touting gender equality under the leadership of the Communist Party.
Teresa said that Li thought her group’s activism on behalf of women’s rights would carry little political risk, and was surprised the state came down on them with such force. Li believes it shows that China’s civil society is facing extreme difficulty, and that much “more needs to be done,” Teresa said.