China frees five detained women’s rights activists

Chinese police have freed five women’s rights activists who were held for more than a month, in a case that sparked an international outcry.

The group, who were detained shortly before International Women’s Day on 8 March, had planned protests against sexual harassment on public transport.

The women were not charged but their release was conditional, a lawyer said.

Rights group Amnesty welcomed the move but said all charges and restrictions against the women should be dropped.

This year’s International Women’s Day coincided with China’s annual parliamentary session, which usually has tight security and is often preceded by the detention of activists.

The women had planned activities including a march in a Beijing park where participants would wear stickers advocating safe sex, and gatherings in Beijing and Guangzhou calling for awareness of sexual harassment on buses.

William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, said campaigners “should be free to advance human rights without fear of intimidation or the threat of detention”.

“Yet the reality today is that rights activists are systematically monitored, harassed and suppressed.”