Thinkers & Advocates

Li Tingting

The activist making Chinese women’s rights a global issue.

Feminist activist

In China, it’s increasingly common to talk about gender equality and feminism. But in an uncertain and often repressive political environment, only a few have taken action. Li Tingting is one of them. Li rose to international fame when she and four other young Chinese activists were imprisoned shortly before International Women’s Day on March 8, 2015; they had planned to hand out stickers raising awareness of sexual assault. Their 37-day detention made headlines around the world and caused an international outcry hastening their release.

Li has been known to feminist and LGBT activists — not to mention Chinese police — for years. In 2012, she and two fellow activists took to Beijing’s streets to raise awareness about domestic violence. Li has every intention of continuing her work; last summer, Li went on a North American tour during which she met fellow activists and spoke at events about Chinese gender activism. Li says she hopes to become the first openly lesbian lawyer in her home country. Whatever she does next, her impact has already been felt. Minky Worden, of the New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch, told


that Li’s “strategic activism” on issues including domestic violence and sexual harassment has forced increased U.S. involvement on “long neglected” women’s issues in China and “inspired a new generation of feminists in and outside of China.” And in January, dozens of Chinese-born feminist activists turned out for the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., with one participant declaring a desire to create “new front lines” for Chinese feminism overseas.

(Photo Credit: Ng Han Guan/AP)

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