Three feminist activists in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong say they are leaving the provincial capital following a protracted campaign by authorities to force them out of their rented accommodation.
Activists Zhang Leilei, Guo Jing and Xiong Zai, who have been living in Guangdong's provincial capital Guangzhou for several months, say they have had enough after being repeatedly targeted by police from their local Haizhu district police department.
"About 20 people came to our leaving party, some of them old friends and some who showed up on the day, because they had heard about our being forced to move online, and wanted to come round to show their support," Guo told RFA.
"Most of them had some understanding of women's rights ... We told them our eviction story, and people were very concerned and supportive," she said. "I found this very moving."
Police first told the women to leave after searching their apartment just two months after they arrived for handouts and T-shirts that formed part of an anti-sexual harassment campaign.
The activists had planned to distribute wearable placards bearing an anti-sexual harassment slogan and depicting cartoon animals aboard public transportation.
The plan was for fellow activists to wear them in public throughout the month of May to draw attention to unwanted touching and sexual attention faced daily by women on China's buses, trains, and subway trains.
Soon after that, they were asked to move out immediately, and banned from carrying out any campaigning activities in public, she said.
Guo said the authorities are also seeking to clear people who might cause "instability" in the city ahead of the Fortune Global Forum, which runs from Dec. 6-8.
Part of wider NGO crackdown
Yang Zhanqing, a visiting law professor at Fordham University in the U.S., said the eviction of the women forms part of a crackdown on civil society groups and non-government organizations (NGOs) that began in 2014.
He said the Overseas NGO Management Law, passed in April 2016, enables police to engage in daily supervision and monitoring of foreign-funded civil society and rights groups operating in China.
Under the new law, Chinese police are now able to enter the premises of foreign NGOs and seize documents and other information, as well as canceling any activities and imposing administrative detention on its workers.
"It doesn't matter what they try to do; it's all illegal," Yang said. "In the past, such activities would still be able to go ahead [in spite of police] harassment."
"But now the autorities take a zero-tolerance approach to anyone who organizes any kind of rights activism," Yang said. "People in the third sector have become 'unstable factors', in the eyes of the government."
The overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, which collates reports from groups inside China, called on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to improve the treatment of Chinese women.
"Women in China face widespread discrimination and abuses both in their public and personal lives," the group said in a statement on its website on Friday. "Physical violence against women remains common. Such incidents often go on uninvestigated, and suspects continue to enjoy impunity."
Under President Xi Jinping, women’s rights defenders and feminist NGOs have been targeted as Xi tightens the communist party’s grip on civil society, the group said.
"This is the grim reality for Chinese women ... CHRD urges the Chinese government to take effective measures to protect women’s rights," it said.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.