Near midnight on Monday night, it was confirmed that all five Chinese feminist activists had been released, having been taken away by police over 37 days ago.
Their crime? Planning to distribute stickers on buses to raise awareness of sexual harassment on public transportation on International Women’s Day (March 8th).
Wei Tingting, Wang Man and Zheng Churan, Wu Rongrong and Li Tingting were freed by police, according to lawyers. They seem unlikely to face charges.
It’s hard to escape the irony that the five women - all aged under 32 - were taken away (on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”) just before staging their protest on International Women’s Day. It is an occasion that is not only widely celebrated in China, but is intended to draw attention to the empowerment of women around the world.
The arrest had been condemned by organisations worldwide, including Amnesty International. And their release this week was called “a victory” by Jing Xiong, the Project Manager of Monitor for Women Network, an NGO that has worked closely with the women in the past.
So who are they? And what does the future hold for the fledging feminist movement in China?
The five women are part of small, upcoming group young female activists who have recently been campaigning for women’s rights. This is something relatively new in China.
Their stunts have included Occupy Men’s Toilet, staged in 2012 to bring focus to an unfair ratio of women to men’s toilets in China; and Bloody Brides, in 2013, where women dressed in blood-stained wedding dresses to raise awareness of domestic violence.