Beijing puts lid on toilet activist

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 March, 2012, 12:00am


Police have barred a university student behind the mainland's Occupy Men's Toilet Movement from leaving Beijing for the next two weeks, with the authorities wary of grass-roots gatherings during two key annual meetings in Beijing.

Li Maizi, who lives in Beijing, organised the movement in Guangzhou, Zhengzhou and Beijing last month with the help of local volunteers to protest about the longer wait endured by women due to a skewed ratio of public toilet cubicles for men and women.

Li, a 22-year-old public administration student, said officers from the Xinjiekou police station in the capital's central area visited her on Monday and warned her not to leave Beijing for two weeks.

'They told me not try to leave Beijing during the lianghui,' Li said. The annual meetings of the Chinese People's Political Conference, beginning today, and the National People's Congress, beginning on Monday, are known as the lianghui (two meetings) on the mainland. Li said she had to cancel a weekend trip to Nanjing for the recording of a television programme about the Occupy Men's Toilet Movement on Jiangsu Satellite TV.

Her travel ban underscores a tightening of security in the capital for the two meetings.

China News Service reported that more than 700,000 security personnel have been mobilised for the two meetings and that vehicles from other cities have needed a special pass to enter Beijing since Wednesday.

The authorities have also banned all promotional and recreational flights within a 200 kilometre radius of Tiananmen Square until March 15.

Several protesters were beaten up at the Ministry of Health on Thursday when police tried to disperse about 150 people affected by HIV/Aids who were petitioning for better treatment and compensation.

The Occupy Men's Toilet Movement was inspired by the Occupy Wall Street Movement in the United States last year. Women students occupied male toilets in protests in Guangzhou, Zhengzhou and Beijing, while others carried colourful placards calling for a ratio of cubicles for men and women at public toilets to be at least 1:2 to cut waiting times for women.

Li said that they had hoped their protests would gain the support of delegates and deputies at the lianghui, leading to a speedy resolution. 'We simply want to have our grievances heard and we've been nice to our male counterparts in all ways,' she said. 'I just can't see what's wrong with that.'