A Chinese campaigner for women’s rights says being detained only strengthened her resolve.

BEIJING — The most prominent of five recently released Chinese 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 girlfriend and her lawyer said.

Li Tingting, 25, an openly lesbian campaigner for women’s issues, has been at the center of an international outcry over China’s detention of activists. Her girlfriend, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition she be identified only by her English name of 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. ‘ “

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 Chinese leadership’s distrust of any efforts to organize civil action.

Known for colorful, high-profile protests – from “potty parity” sit-ins to street theater denouncing spousal abuse – the five women drew attention overseas. Foreign governments, rights groups and luminaries including Hillary Clinton criticized the arrests as an overreaction by a repressive Chinese government, and urged Chinese authorities to drop the investigations against the women.