Chinese police refocus women activist probe

Reuters, BEIJING

Thu, Apr 09, 2015 - Page 6

Chinese police are focusing their investigation into five detained women’s rights activists on campaigns they were involved in over recent years, not their latest bid to highlight sexual harassment on public transport, lawyers said yesterday.

The five were taken into custody on the weekend of International Women’s Day, March 8, and later detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” their lawyers said, a charge that carries jail of up to five years.

The US, Britain and the EU have condemned the detentions, prompting China to call on other countries to respect its judicial sovereignty.

Supporters of the five — Li Tingting (李婷婷), 25; Wei Tingting (韋婷婷), 26; Wang Man (王曼), 32; Zheng Churan (鄭楚然), 25; and Wu Rongrong (武嶸嶸), 30 — initially assumed they were picked up because of their plans to demonstrate against sexual harassment on buses and trains.

However, Wang Qiushi (王秋實), the lawyer for Li, said the investigation was centered on a 2012 campaign for more public toilets for women and a 2013-2014 campaign against domestic violence.

“The initial reason for taking them away was the anti-sexual harassment bus activity on March 7, but it looks like slapping them now with a criminal charge for that is obviously very difficult,” Wang said.

The 2012 “Occupy Men’s Room” campaign led to four cities pledging to increase the ratio of toilet cubicles for women, the state-run China Daily reported.

The “Bloodstained Bride” campaign of 2013-2014 involved women posing in blood-splattered wedding gowns to draw attention to violence.