The Chinese government must drop all charges against each of the five women activists released on bail late on Monday, Amnesty International said today.
The five activists – Wei Tingting, Wang Man, Wu Rongrong, Li Tingting and Zheng Churan – arrested and detained on 7 March for planning to mark International Women’s Day by launching a campaign against sexual harassment.
“The decision to release all five women is an encouraging breakthrough,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.
“The authorities must now follow through and drop all charges and restrictions against the women.”
The five young activists are members of China’s Women’s Rights Action Group. They had made stickers printed with slogans “Stop sexual harassment, let us stay safe” and “Go police, go arrest those who committed sexual harassment!” which they planned to distribute on International Women’s Day.
Police had detained the five women on the charge of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”, which carries a maximum of five years in prison each. Police later recommended that prosecutors change the charge to “disrupting public order in public place”, a potentially lesser offence.
Under Chinese law, defendants released on “bail pending trial” can see the charges against them dropped if they do not commit further violations of the law, but often remain under close police surveillance.
“Women’s rights campaigners should be free to advance human rights without fear of intimidation or the threat of detention,” said William Nee.
“Yet the reality today is that rights activists are systematically monitored, harassed and suppressed.”