Chinese Feminists To Lodge Formal Complaint Over Treatment in Detention

2015-04-22
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An undated photo of Chinese feminist activist Li Tingting, one of five women's rights activists still under surveillance after their 2015 release on bail.
An undated photo of Chinese feminist activist Li Tingting, one of five women's rights activists still under surveillance after their 2015 release on bail.
AFP

Two of the five Chinese feminists recently released on bail after being detained on International Women's Day said on Wednesday they will lodge formal complaints over alleged mistreatment at the hands of Beijing police during their 37-day incarceration.

Wu Rongrong, Li Tingting, Wei Tingting, Wang Man, and Zheng Churan were released "on bail" last week after being detained on suspected public order charges on March 6, as they planned a public transport awareness campaign to combat sexual harassment.

The five women, whose detention prompted an international outcry, are still regarded as criminal suspects, and will have police restrictions in place on their movements for a year after their release.

Now, Li and Wu say they plan to complain about their treatment at the hands of Beijing's Haidian district police department.

"I was subjected to physical attacks and humiliation by a lot of people [in the detention center]," Li told RFA on Wednesday.

"In the end they couldn't even find anything to link me to the charges of picking quarrels and stirring up trouble, or gathering a crowd to disrupt public order," she said.

"So I am demanding that they immediately lift my bail status."

Police at the Haidian District Detention Center in Beijing had also confiscated Li's belongings, and haven't yet returned them, she said.

"They should give me back my Xiaomi wristband ... which has nothing whatsoever to do with the case," Li said.

"My social security card that I need to visit the doctor is stored in it, and I could be charged very high fees with no way of reclaiming them," she said. "This has had a huge impact on my life."

Meanwhile, Wu said she was bewildered by the entire experience, as she had offered to call off the sticker and leaflet campaign if police ordered her to do so.

"I feel totally mystified by the whole thing, especially as [we were detained] before we even launched," Wu said in an interview on Wednesday.

"At the time, I told them that if they didn't want us to launch the campaign, then we wouldn't do it," she said. "But they still took us away and put us in a detention center, which was pretty hard to cope with."

Wu said she thought the police had behaved "inexplicably" in detaining the five women.

"I don't know about the others, but I will be starting legal proceedings in the near future," she said. "I think the law is the only means of protesting their actions."

Wu's defense lawyer Wang Fei declined to comment on the plan, however.

"It's hard for me to say how this will go, because I will need to look at the details of the situation," Wang said.

"I haven't been instructed yet, so I can't really comment on her plan to sue the authorities," he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Li posted an open letter online via social media saying that "dozens" of her belongings had been confiscated by police and not returned to her on her release.

"Because of this, I am planning to sue the Haidian district police over their illegal acts while I was in custody," it said.

Li said she had been acting with the aim of advancing gender equality in China, and had committed no acts that amounted to "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble."

"All I did was mild advocacy, and no criminal acts were involved," she wrote. "Their arbitrary behavior has created a miscarriage of justice."

"The Haidian police should withdraw all charges as soon as possible, lift all coercive measures against me, and restore my good name," Li said.

Fellow Chinese feminist Zhao Sile said Li and the other four women were entitled to an explanation.

"I think that Li Tingting is very courageous to insist on upholding her personal rights," Zhao told RFA. "She hasn't decided that it's water under the bridge, or been cowed into submission after her release."

"Very few people dare to openly sue the government over these sorts of acts," Zhao said.

Rights groups say the women's detentions came amid a nationwide crackdown on nongovernmental groups and grassroots charity organizations, and that many of their fellow activists were alsodetained and questioned by China's state security police.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party has promoted gender equality, at least in theory, since it came to power in 1949.

But campaigners say the reality is very different on the ground, and that discrimination still presents major obstacles for Chinese women, who face habitual workplace discrimination, harassment and domestic violence.

When Beijing hosted the Fourth World Conference on Women 20 years ago, the conference laid down a long-term program of improvements to the rights and opportunities offered to women and girls around the world, with requirements for governments to report back to the United Nations on the changes.

The Beijing Declaration pledged to "ensure equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all women and girls."

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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