Gender rights activist Ye Haiyan was assaulted and detained by Guangxi public security officials yesterday after returning from Hainan province, where she had protested against the sexual abuse of schoolgirls.
Ye appealed for help three times on her microblog around noon yesterday, saying her apartment had been raided by about 10 women and one man while she was alone with her daughter.
"There are now four to five women beating me up," Ye said in her first post. "Please help me to call the police. There is only me and my daughter [here]."
Two Beijing-based lawyers who joined Ye in the Hainan protest earlier this week said Ye was summoned for questioning by police in Guangxi's Bobai county yesterday after she was accused of physical assault while fending off her attackers.
Her supporters said they believed the attack was an attempt to silence Ye after she launched an online anti-child-abuse campaign that has received massive public support.
Earlier this week, Ye and a few lawyers held cardboard placards in front of a Wanning primary school whose principal has been charged with raping six girls. They urged perverted teachers to leave pupils alone and posted photos of their campaign online.
The Hainan case triggered a national outcry, with the local authorities accused of downplaying the case and seeking to silence the victims' parents to control the damage. Public sentiment was further inflamed by the reporting of at least seven other sexual abuse cases targeting children in the past three weeks.
Internet users posted pictures of themselves in front of slogans, saying: "Principals. Find me if you want to get a room [a Chinese euphemism for having sex]. Please spare the primary pupils."
A relative who is caring for Ye's 13-year-old daughter said the girl had been frightened by the attack. "She cried and didn't understand what was happening," the relative said.
Local police approached for comment yesterday refused to answer questions about Ye.
Tang Jitian , a Beijing-based rights lawyer, said police could hold Ye for between 24 hours and 15 days, in what was a deliberate attempt to silence her activism.
"She has also been seen as a thorn in the side of local authorities obsessed with maintaining social stability," Tang said. "This is not the first time she has been harassed."