BEIJING (Reuters) – China has detained at least two feminist activists, a lawyer said, as the country escalates a crackdown on dissent ahead of planned rallies this weekend to mark International Women’s Day.
Li Tingting, who goes by the pseudonym Li Maizi, a young women’s rights campaigner who is best known for leading a campaign for unisex toilets, was detained in Beijing. Another activist, Zheng Churan, was being held in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou.
“They have not given information on why she was detained, but my guess is that it has something to do with maintaining social stability on International Women’s Day (on March 8),” said Yan Xin, Li’s lawyer, by phone.
Another rights activist who is close to the two women said they and other feminist campaigners were planning a demonstration against sexual harassment on public transportation on March 7, which would have taken place in both Beijing and Guangzhou as well as other places.
The women were detained late Friday evening.
“It isn’t just the two of them who have been detained, police have sought out many other feminist organizers throughout the country as well, and many demonstrations have been forcibly canceled,” said the activist, who asked not to be named because she feared repercussions from the police.
Rights groups say China is taking an increasingly tough line against freedom of expression.
Beijing police officials could not be reached for comment. In Guangzhou, a police official reached by phone said no information had been released about the case.
(Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)