China releases three detained feminist activists: lawyer

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese police on Monday released at least three of the five feminist activists detained for over a month in a case which prompted an international diplomatic outcry, one of their lawyers said.

Wei Tingting, Wang Man and Zheng Churan were freed by police, said lawyer Liang Xiaojun, with the status of the other two not yet clear. The release indicates that the trio will not face charges.

"I don't have news yet about Wu Rongrong and Li Tingting, but the other three have been released," said Mr Liang, citing information from family members. He represents Ms Wu.

Police detained the activists - all aged 32 or under - shortly before International Women's Day last month as they were preparing to hand out leaflets about sexual harassment on public transport.

The five women had in recent years been linked to several stunts in different cities aiming to highlight issues such as domestic violence and the poor provision of women's toilets.

Their detention prompted condemnation from the United States and the European Union, which called for their release.

Police told lawyers the activists were suspected of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble", a vague charge increasingly used by authorities under President Xi Jinping to detain and jail protesters for holding small-scale demonstrations.