The most prominent of five recently released mainland women's rights activists feels her dedication to the cause has grown stronger after spending 37 days in detention with interrogators who blew smoke onto her face and insulted her sexual orientation, her partner and lawyer said. Li Tingting, 25, an openly lesbian campaigner for women's issues, has been at the centre of an international outcry over China's detention of activists. Her partner, who gave only her English name, Teresa, relayed comments from Li for the first time since the activist's conditional release from a Beijing jail last Monday. Teresa spoke in the presence of Li's lawyer Wang Yu, who confirmed Li's comments. "'Feminism is my soul'," Teresa quoted Li as saying. "'I thought a lot and came to believe what I do cannot be wrong. My belief is firmer. Feminism will surely be inseparable from me'." Li and four other women, ranging in age from 25 to 32, were detained in a criminal investigation for their plans to hand out stickers and fliers denouncing sexual harassment, in a case reflecting the central leadership's deep distrust of any efforts to organise civil action in a group outside the ruling Communist Party's control. Known for colourful, high-profile protests - from "potty parity" sit-ins to street theatre denouncing spousal abuse - the five women drew what has been, for recent years, an unusual amount of attention overseas. Foreign governments, rights groups and others, including US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton criticised the arrests as an overreaction by a repressive Chinese government, and urged Chinese authorities to drop the investigations. The five were released, but remain under investigation and have been told not to travel outside their home cities or meet journalists. Associated Press reporters travelled to Li's home village of Hongtongying, a community among wheat fields and willow trees on Beijing's outskirts, but were trailed by unidentified vehicles. In a nearby town centre, the journalists were able to see Li with Teresa as they walked arm-in-arm from a tea house to a hospital, but could not interview Li. Her friend and the lawyer said Li would abide by state security officials' demands that she grant no interviews. They also released a written statement by Li, in which she pleaded innocence. "What I have done does not provoke trouble, but is mild advocacy that does not amount to any crime," Li wrote. "I demand police dismiss the case immediately, remove coercive restrictions on me and return innocence to me." The lawyer said the demand that Li hold no interviews had no basis under mainland law. "The activism by Li Tingting not only complies with Chinese law, but should be lauded because she is promoting the law," Wang said, referring to the country's policy and declarations championing equal rights for women. "She should not have been treated so illegally by authorities. For a young woman who is able to do what she's done, I think she should be considered a hope for China," Wang said. Li would need some time to readjust but had been in good spirits despite her ordeal, Teresa and the lawyer said. In the statement, Li said she was deprived of sleep and had cigarette smoke blown in her face while she was restrained in an iron chair. "It made my nostrils and eyes dry and uncomfortable," Li wrote. "I could not move and felt my dignity was greatly insulted." Interrogators shone strong light into her eyes and repeatedly called her homosexuality "sickening" and "shameless", Li wrote. Wang said the acts by interrogators amounted to torture.