By Laura Finley
Laura Finley
Laura Finley

I write this having just returned from a nonviolent protest in which I wore my bridal gown smeared with fake blood. How ironic that it was exactly that type of action that led to the arrest and now 38 day imprisonment of five Chinese domestic violence and human rights activists.


Initially, 10 Chinese women were arrested on March 6, 2015 and five remain in detention as of April 12, 2015. Li Tingting, 25; Wu Rongrong, 30; Zheng Churan, 25; Wei Tingting, 26; and Wang Man, 33, wore bridal gowns covered with fake blood in an effort to raise awareness about domestic violence.

They were also organizing a public campaign against the sexual harassment of women on public transportation that would have taken place on March 8, International Women’s Day, and attempted to occupy men’s restrooms in an effort to prompt officials to build more women’s facilities.

Additionally, the detained are all well-known activists for LGBT equality. Wu and her colleagues had used performance art, shaved their heads to protest barriers to higher education for women, and other nonviolent forms of activism.  These women have been unjustly held in prison for more than a month and are being held for at least another seven days while prosecutors decide whether to bring charges that could result in prison sentences of up to five years. Some reports have stated that the women had been denied medical access at points in their incarceration. In addition, CNN reported that Chinese authorities raided the office of a non-governmental organization that had supported the women.

While the issue hasn’t received nearly as much attention as it should have, Hillary Clinton posted on Monday, April 6 on Twitter: “The detention of women’s activists in #China must end. This is inexcusable.”

Clinton and others have noted the ironic timing of the repression of female activists, as this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Congress on Women that was held in Beijing. It was at that conference that Clinton famously announced “women's rights are human rights.”  Similarly, UN Ambassador Samantha Power, tweeted: “In China speaking out against sexual harassment is ‘creating a disturbance.’ Disturbance is restricting NGOs fighting for universal rights.”

As a nonviolent activist who seeks to raise awareness about dating, domestic and sexual violence and to promote appropriate legal and community-based responses to these problems, I am deeply concerned that the arrest of these women will have a chilling effect on activism in China and beyond. We know it is only through the tireless work of so many activists, female and male, before us that domestic violence is illegal in the U.S and in many other countries.

 Yet this work remains tremendously important, as an estimated one-third of the world’s women will endure an abusive relationship during her lifetime. Despite legislation, there are an estimated 1,300 domestic violence murders in the U.S each year. China had drafted its first domestic violence legislation in fall 2014, amidst data that shows some 40 percent of women who are married or in a relationship had suffered from abuse. It was not until 2001 that physical abuse was accepted as grounds for divorce in China.

I implore all who read this to express their support for these women and to call on China to release them. Activists are using the hashtags #FreeTheFive and #FreeBeijing20Five to offer support. People can also contact the U.S. State Department to encourage their continued action on the behalf of these nonviolent activists. Learn how to take immediate action to address the women’s health concerns in prison at http://www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/uaa05415_1.pdf. For additional information about South Florida dating and domestic violence activism, see www.collegebrideswalk.com.

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Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology in  Miami, FL,  and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.