​Advocating for women's rights in China lands "Beijing Five" in custody

BEIJING - U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power is urging China's government to release five imprisoned women's rights advocates. The women were detained recently for what authorities called "picking quarrels."

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"The Beijing Five" Feminist Voices

Their previous acts include singing on the Beijing subway to raise awareness against abuse and discrimination; dressing up as blood-stained brides to encourage women to stand-up against domestic violence; and making Styrofoam toilets to push authorities for more public female restrooms.

Ye Jinghuan, a friend and fellow activist, was detained twice, once overnight, when she tried to visit them.

"Those five kids are so moderate," Ye told CBS News. "They were never radical or violent."

Ye said it was too risky to talk at home so she guided us to a park to tell us about conditions inside the Haiden detention facility.

"Words could not describe the misery," Ye explained. "Under such mental pressure, people confess easily whether they committed a crime or not."

More than three weeks after their detention and no formal charges have been filed.

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Female activists dress up as blood-stained brides to encourage women to stand-up against domestic violence Feminist Voices

Activists tell us these detentions are indicative of the shrinking space for dissent in China -- as journalists, lawyers, and now women's rights advocates are locked up. Two years into Xi Jinping's presidency, detentions have nearly quadrupled.

Report: Censorship has grown in China, but so has resistance

"If such moderate people merely promoting gender equality are cracked down on so harshly, I don't think there is any hope in the rule of law, democracy, or a civil society," said Ye.

These women could face up to five years in prison and their detention may send a wider message: to keep quiet.