Amnesty International’s appeal for the Feminist Five Photo: Tumblr
Amnesty International’s appeal for the Feminist Five
Photo: Tumblr

As discussed in this chapter, the Feminist Five 女权五姐妹—Li Tingting 李婷婷, Wu Rongong 武嵘嵘, Zheng Churan 郑楚然, Wei Tingting 韦婷婷, and Wang Man 王曼—were arrested in the middle of the night on 6 March 2015, two days before International Women’s Day. The arrests took place on the eve of the Five’s planned public campaign to raise awareness about sexual harassment on public transportation; they were charged with ’gathering a crowd to disrupt public order’ despite not having had the chance to gather the crowd in the first place.

Previously Li Tingting and others had organised a movement called ‘Occupy Men’s Toilets’ that involved staging sit-ins at male toilets to draw attention to the relative lack of facilities for women. ‘Occupy’ attracted widespread international and domestic media attention. Another one of the women, Wu Rongrong had founded Weizhiming 蔚之鸣, a legal centre specialising in women’s rights, and often organised public education events. Both Li Tingting and Wei Tingting have also played extremely public roles in LGBT rights activism.

The Feminist Five were released on bail within twenty-four hours of each other on 13 April 2015. They had spent thirty-seven days at the Haidian District Detention Centre. All five are still officially criminal suspects, though no court dates have been set. Some of them have already been briefly re-detained and questioned. They also face travel restrictions, and are prohibited from speaking to the media. Weizhiming, the women’s legal centre, was forced to shut its doors in the summer of 2015, followed by the closure of the internationally recognised Beijing Zhongze Women’s Legal Counselling Service Centre 众泽妇女法律咨询服务中心 not long afterwards. ‘I’d like to thank the Chinese government for arresting me,’ feminist activist Li Tingting remarked in a recorded statement released on the one-year anniversary of her arrest. ‘Without their involvement, I think many fewer people would be aware of the current Chinese feminist movement.’