The monthlong detention of five women activists in Beijing is illegal as authorities have not followed due process in filing charges against or releasing them after 30 days, according to one of their lawyers. It was reported earlier this week that police told Li Tingting, one of the detainees, that they had forwarded their case to prosecutors, but Li’s lawyer found that the case has not yet been filed. Edward Wong reports for the New York Times:
According to Chinese law, the police are generally required to file a request for a formal arrest to prosecutors within 30 days of detaining someone if they want to continue the detention, the lawyers said. In the case of the five women, the deadline for that was Tuesday.
The lawyers checked with the prosecutor’s office in the Haidian district of Beijing, where the women are being held, and discovered no applications had been filed, they said.
[…] Mr. Yan said that he had met Ms. Li at the Haidian Detention Center on Tuesday, and that she had told him the police had informed her they had filed formal arrest applications. But there is no evidence that that has happened, Mr. Yan said. He said that Ms. Li seemed to be doing fine, and that she had told him she was prepared for any possible course of action.
[…] On Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Wang visited Beijing No. 1 Municipal Procuratorate, which is on a higher administrative level than the Haidian office, to check whether any application had been filed there, he said. But he said he found there had been no filing. “Now we can say for sure the five women are being held illegally,” he said. [Source]
The five women were detained the weekend before International Women’s Day on March 8 as they planned a public campaign against sexual harassment. They have since been criminally detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a common charge against activists and government critics. But because they were detained before actually carrying out their planned action, authorities may now be expanding the investigation to include previous activism they were involved with. Sui-Lee Wee of Reuters reports:
Wang Qiushi, the lawyer for Li Tingting, said the focus of the investigation was centered on a 2012 campaign to press for more public toilets for women and a 2013-14 campaign against domestic violence.
“The initial reason for taking them away was the anti-sexual harassment bus activity on March 7, but it looks like slapping them now with a criminal charge for that is obviously very difficult,” Wang said.
The 2012 “Occupy Men’s Room” campaign led to four cities pledging to increase the ratio of toilet cubicles for women, the state-run China Daily reported.
[…] Lu Jun, co-founder of a group that campaigns against discrimination against women, said men identifying themselves as Beijing police had gone to various cities to look for women who participated in an “Occupy Men’s Rooms” campaign. [Source]
Read more about the women’s involvement with the public restrooms campaign and other activism, via CDT.