The lawyer of a women's rights activist says Beijing police have told him his client and four other women activists have been criminally detained for planning to put up anti-sexual harassment posters in three Chinese cities.

Lawyer Wang Qiushi, who represents activist Wei Tingting, said Friday that police this week told lawyers representing the women that they have been accused of creating disturbances. Wang said it wasn't clear when the women were formally detained, which is a legal step before being tried in court.

He said if convicted of creating disturbances, the women could serve up to three years in prison.

The women were detained last weekend before they could put up posters in conjunction with International Women's Day. The European Union and the U.S. have called for their release.