The female activists arrested last month for organizing peaceful protests against sexual harassment, now widely known as the Feminist Five, have finally been released this week, though their legal troubles are far from over.
The women-Wei Tingting, Li Tingting, Zheng Churan, Wu Rongrong, and Wang Man-are now back in their respective homes, but they remain on bail and can be further interrogated or charged at any time in the future. They will also be monitored by police for a full year and must disclose any travel plans with authorities during that time. The release is thus a minimal victory, likely intended to ease the pressure on China from around the world.
US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Secretary of State John Kerry were among the most high-profile critics. “Each and every one of us has the right to speak out against sexual harassment and the many other injustices that millions of women and girls suffer around the world each and every day,” Kerry said, adding that “Chinese authorities should also support them, not silence them.”
China lodged an immediate complaint against Kerry, arguing that the US has no place in foreign governments’ internal affairs, including their zero-tolerance policy on dissent. And the fight is far from over, as the Beijing office of Yirenping, a human rights group with links to the Feminist Five, was targeted by the Chinese government during a raid late month where files and equipment were confiscated. The group is now being threatened with punishment for violating the law, though specific charges are currently unknown.
The government will undoubtedly come up with something, plausible or otherwise.