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China's Xi Jinping speaks at U.N. General Assembly
02:57 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Chinese state mouthpiece called Clinton a "rabble rouser" who resorted to "ignominious shenanigans"

Clinton tweeted that Xi was "shameless" for keeping five prominent Chinese feminist activists remain under surveillance while pledging to support women's rights

He spoke at a U.N. summit over the weekend pledging $10 million to promote gender equality

CNN  — 

China has lashed out at Hillary Clinton for her tweet criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping’s record on gender equality, accusing her of being a “rabble-rouser” intent on China-bashing to win election points.

The English edition of Global Times, a state-run media outlet, ran the editorial on Monday saying she had “resorted to these ignominious shenanigans” and likened her to another 2016 candidate, Donald Trump.

It added: “Hillary was a lawyer, the former hostess of the White House, and also a senior leader in the government. It is a pity that even the former first lady has also thrown away her decency and reputation only to gain a leg up in the election.”

U.S. presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping for co-hosting a summit on women’s rights with the United Nations whilst punishing several prominent women’s rights activists in his own country.

“Xi hosting a meeting on women’s rights at the U.N. while persecuting feminists? Shameless,” Clinton tweeted Sunday.

Clinton was referring to the cases of five Chinese women activists – Wei Tingting, Wu Rongrong, Li Tingting, Wang Man and Zheng Churan – who were detained in March for campaigning against sexual harassment.

Although China released them on bail 37 days later, their ordeal continues. The five women are subject to surveillance for a year, their activities restricted, and police can call them in for questioning at any time.

“This shouldn’t be a moment of celebration,” Wu’s lawyer Liang Xiaojun told CNN at the time. “The arbitrary detention and release of these women really shows the backwardness of China’s legal system.”

OPINION: China’s chilling message to women

‘Half the sky’

At the U.N. summit meeting, Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to “reaffirm our commitment to gender equality and women’s development.” It marked the 20th anniversary of the historic Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995.

Xi invoked a famous line from Mao Zedong that “women hold up half the sky” and pledged $10 million to the U.N. agency for women.

“As the Chinese people pursue a happy life, every Chinese woman has the opportunities to excel in life and make their dream come true. China will do more to enhance gender equality as its basic state policy, give play to women’s important role as ‘half the sky’ and support them in realizing their own dreams and aspiration in both career and life,” Xi said.

To emphasize China’s rising position on the world stage, Xi also promised to help build schooling and health projects for women and girls in developing countries. In programs jointly funded by China and the U.N., China will host women from other parts of the developing world to build skills.

“The Chinese women, through their own development, will also play a greater part in global women’s movement and make greater contributions to gender equality in the world,” Xi said.

Tweet controversy

According to Chinese media, Li Junhua, Director-General of the Department of International Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, remarked on Sunday that the feminists “were arrested not because they were advancing women’s rights but because they broke the law.”

China Daily quoted him saying that “Chinese women are best judges of their rights” and “some individuals or entities take groundless views, or show a lack of understanding” in what appeared to be a jab at Clinton’s comment.

On Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, users also joined in on the chatter. One user cited traditional expectations of womanhood and said Clinton “abandoned her grace and self-restraint,” her words unbecoming for someone who served both as First Lady and Secretary of State.

However, one of the more popular comments came from “Voices of Feminism,” which posted a number of surveys filled out by Chinese women about their satisfaction with the levels of gender equality in their country. It concluded that more than 70% of women were not satisfied.

“Hillary said it right,” a user commented on the findings. “Shameless, indeed.”

Meanwhile, The National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, has begun deliberations on its first-ever draft law on domestic violence, reported Xinhua, a state-run news agency.

Domestic violence is one of the key issues the five previously-detained activists have protested against – including “performance art”-style demonstrations where they donned wedding gowns splattered in blood.

READ: Chinese feminists show off armpit hair in photo contest

Long-time women’s advocate

Clinton, who is making a second run at becoming the U.S.’s first female president, has been a long-time advocate of gender equality. At a 1995 conference in Beijing, as First Lady, Clinton delivered a landmark speech on the violations of women’s rights worldwide. Since she announced her run in April, she has made women’s rights a cornerstone of her 2016 presidential campaign.

“What we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish,” she said in her 1995 speech. “If women are free from violence, their families will flourish.”

While she has harsh words for China’s track record on gender equality, the U.S. also has significant room for improvement, according to campaigners there.

The U.S. Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) and The Leadership Conference released a separate “shadow report” over the weekend to coincide with the U.N. meeting. Signed by a network of American women’s rights groups, the report called on the U.S. to improve its domestic and foreign policies, from banning violent practices such as the “shackling of pregnant women” in prison, to expanding health services for women, immigrants and LGBTQ people, to fully implementing its global development initiatives.

The report also urged the U.S. to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the only democratic nation not to have done so.