The families of five women's rights activists jailed in Beijing for more than a month say they have been released. Their detention sparked international condemnation.
Feminist activists Wei Tingting, Wang Man, Wu Rongrong, Li Tingting and Zheng Churan were "released on bail" Monday, one of their lawyers said, citing accounts from family members.
The women were detained over the weekend of International Women's Day on March 8 as they prepared to distribute materials against domestic violence. The group was accused of creating a disturbance - a charge that carries a sentence of up to three years in prison.
Lawyer Liang Xiaojun said family members had been told the women would be given a conditional release, meaning that charges could still be brought at a later date.
"In the eyes of the police, they are still suspects... they will need to regularly update authorities on their whereabouts," effectively preventing them from engaging in further activism, Liang said.
Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case of the five women, all aged 32 or under, angered rights activists in China and overseas. The United States, the European Union and international human rights organizations condemned the women's weeks-long detention.
US Democrats' presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton and US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power expressed their concern via Twitter.
Rights group Amnesty International said that China must "immediately and unconditionally release the five women if they are being detained solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association."
In response, China's Foreign Ministry demanded other parties stay out of its business.
"No one has the right to ask China to release relevant persons, so we hope that relevant people will stop interfering in China's judicial sovereignty in such a manner," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
The high-profile activists had previously taken part in demonstrations in different cities across China, including a stunt in which they walked the streets in blood-stained wedding gowns to raise awareness about domestic violence. In recent years the group has also campaigned for more public toilets for women and for police to take action against sexual harassment suspects.
nm/rc (Reuters, AP, AFP)