ANAS ALZAHRANI WRITES — While countries around the world are buying into the “this is what a feminist looks like” mentality, China still seems to maintain its distaste for the movement. Yet despite strict regulations to curb radical voices, activists refuse to stay quiet: especially the Feminist Five.

The group first became a global name after their arrest and 37-day detainment in 2015. Imprisoned for “gathering a crowd to disturb public order,” they were actually handing out anti-sexual harassment fliers on International Women’s Day. Their arrests drew widespread criticism from politicians, advocacy groups, and social media platforms. The brave women soon were nicknamed ‘Feminist Five.’

Who are These Women?

Li Maizi, or Ting Ting, is known for demanding more public toilets for women and for heading the LGBT program at the Beijing Yienping Center. The Center is a non-profit organization that promotes social justice and public health for Hepatitis B, HIV, and disabled people. She also performed in the controversial American play “Vagina Monologues,” a series which reflects women’s struggles, in Beijing.

Wu Rongrong is the founder and executive director of the Weizhiming Women’s center in Hangzhou. She also helped AIDS victims by working at The Aizhixing Institute in Beijing, and has led women’s rights programs at the Beijing Yirenping Center.

 Wang Man is an activist in China’s human’s rights movement. She is also a gender researcher, and a core member of China’s new feminist movement.  

Wei TingTing is a Chinese feminist and activist for gay rights and women’s rights. She is also the director of Jiande, an unregistered LGBT rights group in Beijing, and helped set up the rights group in Wuhan. In addition, she has been instrumental to the annual AIDS Walk on the Great Wall.

Zheng Churan, informally known as Datu (Big Rabbit), has campaigned against gender discrimination and searched for a dialogue with officials of the Chinese government on the subject.

Their detention drew International Attention

What made their arrests a global concern was how these feminists were treated during their incarceration. Chinese police probed their private and professional lives, even visiting all the locations the women frequented. Without due process, their initial interrogation lasted several hours. And when the detainees needed medical supplies, they were refused.

After extreme public outrage, they were released on bail April 13, 2015, with restrictions on traveling and speaking to media.

The Fear of Chinese Feminists

This historic arrest over handing fliers begs the question: Why is the Chinese government scared of rising Chinese feminists? Women’s rights is a worldwide movement. Perhaps, in the minds of patriarchal societies, women still are not seen to be as good as men.

Even though it has been three years since their arrest and release on bail, the case remains under investigation. “I am extremely frustrated,” one of the Five Feminists told Foreign Press under anonymity. The persecution “has a huge negative impact on my life and my work.” Regardless, she has hope that authorities might drop the case and she can return to her life of activism. “That way I can return to work and continue to dedicate myself to public service and gender equality.”

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