Who are the Beijing Five?

Written By komlim puldel on Rabu, 08 April 2015 | 20.01

Three of the five Chinese women's rights activists who have been detained without charge. Source: Facebook

THE United States is urging China to release five Chinese women's rights activists who were detained without charge for peacefully protesting against domestic violence and campaigned for more public female toilets.

The women — Li Tingting, Wei Tingting, Wang Man, Zheng Churan and Wu Rongrong - marched through Beijing wearing white wedding gowns splashed with red paint while chanting, "Yes to love, no to violence."

They were detained on International Women's Day, March 8, for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble", but have yet to be formally charged. If charged, they could be sentenced for up to five years.

The women are members of China's Women's Rights Action Group. According to Amnesty International, they protested with placards that read, "Stop sexual harassment, let us stay safe" and "Go police, go arrest those who committed sexual harassment!"

Fellow activists have expressed concern for their wellbeing.

The New York Times reports one of the women detained has hepatitis and hasn't been able to take her medication, while another is believed to have suffered a mild heart attack while in custody.

Ye Jinghuan is an activist and friend of the women. She was detained twice while trying to visit her friends.

A post from the Amnesty International/Tumblr. Source: Supplied

"Those five kids are so moderate," Ye told CBS News. "They were never radical or violent."

Ye said "words could not describe the misery" of the conditions inside the detention facility.

"Under such mental pressure, people confess easily whether they committed a crime or not.

"If such moderate people merely promoting gender equality are cracked down on so harshly, I don't think there is any hope in the rule of law, democracy, or a civil society," Ye said.

Thousands of people have signed a petition demanding the women be freed. A hashtag, #FreeTheFive, has started trending on social media. Women around the world are posting photos of themselves wearing masks bearing the photos of the detained women.

Both Hillary Clinton and the United States Ambassador to the United Nations have urged China to release the women.

"In China speaking out against sexual harassment is 'creating a disturbance.' Disturbance is restricting NGOs fighting for universal rights," UN ambassador Samantha Power tweeted in March.

She later added: "Chinese authorities should immediately release 'Beijing+20 five'. Sad reflection on 'women's rights are human rights.' #FreeBeijing20Five."

Mrs Clinton tweeted this on Tuesday:

China has bristled at the comments.

A spokesman from China's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday: "We hope that public figures in other countries can respect China's judicial sovereignty and independence," Reuters reports.

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