Chinese feminist activists still in police detention

Last week Nancy Tang covered the detention of prominent feminist leaders in China shortly before International Women’s Day. She noted the hypocrisy that, as “Chinese state media celebrates women legislators and new anti-domestic violence legislation… the state is so afraid of young, vocal feminists that they must be detained right before International Women’s Day, so as to assure the smooth running of national legislative sessions.” 

Nearly two weeks later, five activists remain in police custody, some in poor health and denied medical attention. Yesterday Foreign Policy published an interview with Zhao Sile, a reporter, feminist organizer, and close friend of several of the detained activists. In it, Sile provides a broader context for the detentions and feminist activism in China:

In the past, the public paid very little attention to feminist issues, but that has gradually changed in the last few years. We’ve had more support from women outside feminist circles and could mobilize more volunteers as more people began to pay attention. Starting around 2010, Chinese feminists became more active by taking our causes to the streets with song and dance performances, and feminist activism was one of the most visible forms of activism in China. In the beginning [of that period], we focused on specific issues, like the skewed gender ratio of public bathrooms and employment discrimination.

But starting in 2014, our relationship with the authorities became quite tense as our activism has grown in depth and breadth. For the party-state, no socially active organizations and individuals are welcome, so it’s inevitable that we would become a target of the government organs that prioritize “stability maintenance” measures. We just never thought detention of our activists would come at this particular point because we believed that young women had some space to express their views. But now it seems that that space has disappeared completely.

Check out the full interview here. If you have legal expertise or political connections within China and are interested in helping out, get in touch with Nancy by tweeting at @NancyYunTang.

Header image credit: Foreign Policy.

New Haven, CT

Dana Bolger is a Senior Editor at Feministing and the co-founder of Know Your IX, the national youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She's testified before Congress on Title IX policy and legislative reform, and her writing has appeared in a number of outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. She's also a student at Yale Law School, and you can find her on Twitter at @danabolger.

Dana Bolger is a Senior Editor at Feministing and a student at Yale Law School.

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