Chinese Feminist Subjected to 'Extreme' Interrogations: Lawyer

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china-international-womens-day-march-2015.jpg The All-China Women's Federation hosts a reception for International Women's Day in Beijing, March 6, 2015.

Chinese police are subjecting one of the five feminists detained ahead of International Women's Day to frequent sleep deprivation and repeated interrogations during her detention on public order charges, her lawyer said on Thursday.

Women's rights activist Li Tingting was detained on March 6 alongside fellow activists Wei Tingting, Wang Man, Zheng Churan and Wu Rongrong, the founder and executive director of the Hangzhou-based rights group Women Center, on suspicion of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble."

Since then, the detention center authorities have repeatedly dragged their feet over the granting of permission for her lawyer Yan Xin to meet with her.

"Between our last two meetings, she said that her interrogations have been very frequent, about two or three sessions a day, except on Saturdays," Yan told RFA after meeting with Li on Wednesday.

"On one occasion, they woke her at 1:30 a.m. and told her she had to work from 2:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m., meaning that she only got two hours' sleep," she said.

"This is interrogation using extreme fatigue, and I plan to make a complaint under the law," Yan said.

Lawyers for all five women, whose detention has sparked international condemnation, say that not one of them has broken Chinese law.

"None of her actions constitute a breach of the law," Yan said of Li on Thursday. "I am in no doubt whatsoever about that."

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying hit out at international criticism of the women's detention, however.

"No one has the right to ask China to release relevant persons, so we hope that relevant people will stop interfering in China's judicial sovereignty in such a manner," Hua told a regular news conference in Beijing.

Supporters pressured

The authorities have also stepped up pressure on any supporters of the detained women, who had planned to observe International Women's Day by putting up posters and stickers about sexual harassment in Beijing, Hangzhou and Guangzhou.

Police in Beijing have searched a major nongovernmental organization (NGO) in recent days in connection with the detention of the women, its director said on Thursday.

More than 20 police officers descended on the office of the anti-discrimination group Yirenping Center, confiscating computers, documents and other items, director Lu Jun said.

"I have been in contact with the security guards in the Zhongsheng office building, where our office is located, and they say that they were police from the local police station," Lu said.

"They searched the place and took away documents and computers," he said.

He said the police had also changed the locks on the doors, so staff had no way to open the center for normal business.

"We can't get in there right now," Lu said, adding that here had been no warning ahead of the police raid.

"Nonetheless, it's pretty clear that the reason for the raid was that we have been calling publicly for the release of the five women's rights activists, and we have carried out some support activities for them," he said.

"We have probably annoyed the relevant departments."

But he said the move was also part of a wider crackdown on NGO activity in China.

"The crackdown started back in October," Lu said. "I think it's also part of this wider campaign."

NGO crackdown

Social media activist Wu Gan, known online by his nickname "The Butcher," agreed.

"This crackdown on NGOs began last year, and recently they raided the offices of Yirenping," Wu said. "It's all of a piece."

"The five women's rights activists were detained during the National People's Congress, which is why they were targeted," he said. "It's not because of anything those five women are supposed to have done."

China's ruling 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.

In 1995, Beijing hosted the Fourth World Conference on Women, which 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 Lin Jing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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