Chinese Rights Activist ‘Still Not Free’ Following Release From Prison: Lawyer
Chinese rights activist Su Changlan, who once supported Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and campaigned for the land rights of rural women, has yet to regain her freedom, more than a month after her reported “release,” her lawyer said on Friday.
Su’s defense attorney Liu Xiaoyuan said via his Twitter account that the authorities said his client was released on Oct. 26, and allowed to return home.
“Legally, she should be entirely at liberty, but in reality, she still has limits on her freedom, while her family members are being treated as guilty by association,” Liu wrote.
Su’s brother Su Shangwei said on Friday that his sister is in poor health after serving three years in a police-run detention center for “incitement to subvert state power” before and after her trial at the Foshan Intermediate People’s Court on Apr. 21, 2016.
“Su Changlan’s health is still in a very poor state, with very poor liver test results,” he said.
“When she had just gotten out, she went back to her parental home for a bunch of tests, where they found that … she has cirrhosis of the liver,” he added.
“We would like to take her to a big hospital for a full battery of tests and proper treatment, but we are in difficult financial straits,” Su Shangwei said.
He said government restrictions on the family’s freedom of movement, as part of the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s “stability maintenance” program, was also causing problems.
“Stability maintenance is on high alert right now, and it’s affecting the whole plan for her treatment,” Su Shangwei said.
The trigger for Su’s detention on Oct. 27, 2014 appeared to be her publicly expressed support for the prodemocracy Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong.
She was accused at her trial of “using the internet and social media to spread rumors and defamation, and repeatedly publishing or forwarding articles and posts containing attacks on the socialist system.”
The 79-day Occupy Central movement saw hundreds of thousands of people pour onto the streets in a campaign for full democracy, using umbrellas to protect themselves from sun, rain, and pepper spray, which gave the demonstration the nickname Umbrella Movement.
But the movement ended with no political victory, and amid accusations from the ruling Chinese Communist Party that the civil disobedience campaign was being orchestrated by “hostile foreign forces” behind the scenes.
Su’s detention has been judged “arbitrary” by the United Nations, which has called on Beijing to release and compensate her.
The overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, which compiles reports from rights groups in China, said the Chinese government makes “hollow claims” about its leadership in protecting the women’s rights.
“Beyond the official rhetoric … Chinese women face widespread discrimination and violence,” it said in a statement on Friday, adding: “Rural women continue to face discrimination and deprivation of their land rights.”
It said women’s rights activists have also faced ill-treatment in detention if they try to stand up for human rights.
“Refusals to release women defenders on medical grounds and to deprive proper medical care have become preferred tools of punishment for the government,” CHRD said.
It said detained lawyer Li Yuhan, who suffers from multiple heart conditions, has been subjected to “cruel and inhumane treatment” by guards at a detention facility in the northeastern city of Shenyang.
Li’s lawyer Lin Qilei said police guards currently “watch her” when she takes a shower and pay scant attention to her nutritional or medical needs.
“They watch her take a shower; they do it on purpose to teach her a lesson,” Lin told RFA on Friday. “Of course we plan to complain to the state prosecutor and the police; we will be writing up the complaint in the next couple of days.”
He dismissed the charges of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” against his client.
“This basically means whatever they want it to mean; it’s a charge that is usable for anything,” he said, adding: “We will be pleading not guilty.”
Li’s brother Li Yongsheng said his sister is also denied hot water to shower in.
“She had heart problems after showering in cold water, [and was] taken to the hospital for a checkup,” he said. “I’m pretty sure she finds it unbearable [in there].”
(Reported by Yang Fan for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.)
(Guangdong rights activist Su Changlan in an undated file photo. Photo courtesy of HRCChina.org)