Detained Chinese feminists in dangerously poor health, lawyers warn

Beijing (dpa) – Concern is growing over the health of two out of five feminist activists detained in China this month in the run-up to International Women’s Day, their lawyers said Tuesday.

Wang Man is suffering from the effects of a congenital heart condition, her lawyer Zhao Xia said.

“In the detention centre’s environment her condition has worsened and she needs hospital treatment,” said Zhao, who declined to provide further details.

New York-based activist group Human Rights in China said that Wang has been transferred to the medical facility at the No. 2 Detention Center in Beijing.

The women are being interrogated for hours at least three times each day and this has contributed to Wu’s deteriorating health condition, lawyer Liang Xiaojun told dpa Tuesday.

Liang is representing a second activist, Wu Rongrong, who is also suffering from a serious pre-existing health condition.

“Wu’s condition is worsening because she has a serious liver disease and has been denied her medication,” said Liang.

“I went to the detention centre yesterday but they refused me, using the excuse that my photocopies of my legal documents were not clear,” Liang added, saying he has not yet been able to meet with Wu.

Wu’s former lawyer Wang Fei told dpa: “The last time I saw her on March 18 she looked tired and her skin was yellow because of her disease.”

“I negotiated with the authorities and they told me she has been transferred to the detention centre’s hospital but because I have not met with her since, I cannot confirm if she really is in hospital.”

Wang said her medicine was taken away because of “detention centre regulations.” Doctors have ordered her not to stop taking the medicine and to get regular liver function check-ups, according to the webpage of activist group Human Rights in China.

Friends and family have expressed concern about the parallel with the case of Cao Shunli, according to the tumblr page of the group Free Chinese Feminists. Cao died in detention last year after security agents denied her medical treatment.

On March 6 and 7, nine women’s and gay rights advocates were detained in three cities, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou, ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.

Five of them, Wang Man, Wu Rongrong, Li Tingting, Zheng Churan, and Wei Tingting, remain detained in Beijing.

The activists were known for public protests, including taking to the streets in blood-stained wedding dresses, to raise public awareness of domestic violence and gay rights.

The five women were reportedly planning to distribute stickers with slogans, including a call for police to arrest sexual harassment suspects.

Yesterday the European Union issued a renewed statement calling for the immediate release of the five women.

“The recent arrest and detention of women’s rights activists in China on the grounds that they wanted to launch a campaign against sexual harassment on International Women’s Day violates their right to demonstrate peacefully,” the EU said.

“We urge China not to restrict the activities of human rights defenders promoting the human rights of women.”

Wang Qiushi, lawyer for activist Wei Tingting, told dpa he has been unable to see his client since March 7.

“I went to the detention centre today but I didn’t meet her because they said she was under questioning. When I left I told authorities I will see her tomorrow and if you can’t arrange for me to meet her I will report to related departments saying they have taken our meeting rights away,” he said.

Wang said Wei’s physical condition looked good and she appeared optimistic during his visit on March 7.

Wang also confirmed he has heard from other lawyers that Wang Man and Wu Rongrong are experiencing health problems.

None of the lawyers were able to confirm whether any charges have been made against any of the activists.

“So far we are getting very little information about their cases from police,” Wang Qiushi told dpa.

Related: “China’s Emerging Women’s Movement” (2013) 

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