Chinese feminist activist Li Tingting has a poignant and surprising message for the government that imprisoned her for speaking out against domestic violence: Thank you for jailing me, because it helped elevate the importance of women's rights.
"I just want to express my gratitude to our government for pushing the feminist movement [to] another peak in China," she said in a YouTube video released Tuesday, which is International Women's Day. "At last, we are free."
Li and four other women -- Wang Man, Zheng Churan, Wu Rongrong and Wei Tingting -- were arrested on March 8, 2015, while preparing their protest. The government released the women a little more than a month later, after a social media campaign called #freethefive called for their liberation. The international community widely condemned China's government while the women were imprisoned.
"It was the first time that the international community knew that there were real feminists in China," Li said in the video, noting that the connection between feminist movements in China and other countries became stronger as a result.
She's proud of the role that the #freethefive movement played in allowing women's rights to progress in China, Li added.
Li also highlighted the success of some past initiatives with which she was involved. For example, she said the "bloody bride" campaign -- which involved women walking around Beijing dressed in wedding gowns stained with fake blood -- called significant attention to the issue of domestic violence. And the "Occupy the Men’s Bathroom" movement in 2012 raised awareness about the need for more public restrooms for women.
Li acknowledged that China has a long way to go when it comes to gender equality. However, the country passed its first anti-domestic violence law last year after more than a decade of campaigning. It allows victims to seek help from police and the judicial system.