Su Changlan

Sentenced to 3 years imprisonment for supporting pro-democracy protests online.

Chinese women’s rights activist Su Changlan was sentenced to three years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” on 31 March 2017 on the charge of ‘inciting subversion of state power’ for publishing and re-posting online articles that were supportive of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in September 2014.

On 27 October 2014 police took Su Changlan from her home. No one knew where she was for over a month.

On 3 December 2014 her family finally found out where she was. She is detained at the Nanhai District Detention Centre in Foshan city.

She has been detained for 2 years and 5 months. She will be released in October 2017.

Update 31 July: The Guangdong Provincial Higher People’s Court have rejected her appeal on 22 May. The court did not conduct a hearing, nor notify her defence lawyers, when they issued the second instance verdict upholding the initial conviction of the three-year sentence.

Detention conditions and lack of medical treatment
Su Changlan is imprisoned in appalling detention conditions. She has health problems and she has not received adequate medical attention. Su Changlan told her lawyer that the conditions of her detention in Nanhai District Detention Centre were terrible. At Nanhai District Detention Centre, southern China, she and 50-70 other inmates were crammed into an 80-square-metre cell, with a sleeping space a little more than 50cm wide, well below the acceptable international standard. Su Changlan said that her physical health has suffered and she has developed a heart condition due to an inability to sleep properly, long-term detention, and lack of adequate treatment to her pre-existing hyperthyroidism.

She regularly feels numbness in her hands and feet and experiences headaches and regular tearing in her right eye. As a result she needs to visit the infirmary on a regular basis. Su Changlan has said she is being held in “terrible” conditions.
After a lengthy process, with multiple applications, the Chinese authorities finally permitted Su Changlan’s husband and elder brother to see her on 27 June, the first time since her detention in 2014. According to Su Shangwei, the meeting lasted only 20 minutes and they could not believe their eyes when they saw her. She was frighteningly thin and frail, making her eyes bulge – indications of serious hyperthyroidism. Su Changlan told them that she had been transferred to a very crowded cell, with more than 60 people and insufficient toilet facilities. She recalled an incident where the queue was so long that she wet her pants before being able to get to the bathroom, and for that, she was scolded by a detention centre officer.

Su Changlan also said that she has been diagnosed with heart disease and, despite continuing to take daily medication, her health does not seem to be improving at all and her hyperthyroid symptoms have only worsened. Finally, she has asked her husband and elder brother to convey her heartfelt thanks to her friends who have cared for her. She said she would face her reality calmly and brave it out.

Update 31 July: They Guangdong Provincial Higher People’s Court have rejected her appeal. The court did not conduct a hearing, nor notify her defence lawyers, when they issued the second instance verdict upholding the initial conviction of the three-year sentence.

Su Changlan does not have any more opportunities to appeal her sentence. Her health situation is very bad so please send postcards to the Nanhai District Detention Centre, calling on the Chinese authorities to ensure Su Changlan has regular access to her family and any medical treatment she may require.

Her prison sentence will end in October 2017.

Read our open letter calling for the urgent medical attention of Su Changlan.

Read our letter

Su Changlan is a Women’s Human Rights Defender

Su Changlan is well- known in Southern China for advocating for human rights. The charges against her are believed to be partly due to her activism on women’s rights issues. She was a primary school teacher from 1990 until 2001. She worked on women’s and children’s rights issues such as the trafficking of children, child brides, family planning, and violence against women. She also worked on migrant children’s rights, land rights, and forced eviction. She was forced to resign from her job as a primary school teacher in Nanhai and has been detained previously a number of times.

Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong

From 26 September 2014, thousands of people occupied parts of downtown Hong Kong to demand electoral reform. Following the unlawful use of tear gas and pepper spray by the police against peaceful protestors on 28 September, the protests grew in size. In December a court injunction ordered the removal of the protestors. Approximately 100 people were detained in mainland China, after the September pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, for activities such as expressing their support on social media, shaving their heads in solidarity with the demonstrators, or planning to travel to Hong Kong to join the protests. This was part of a wider attempt by the Chinese authorities to silence any discussion or display of support for the events in Hong Kong. The popular photo-sharing platform Instagram was blocked, government censors attempted to remove all positive mentions of the pro-democracy protests online and forced newspapers and TV stations to only use the state-sponsored narrative of the protests.

Su Changlan sends her thanks:

“Dear family and friends,

I wish you well. I have been detained in Nanhai District Detention Centre on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” for almost 15 months already. I have never stopped thinking of you all ever since. During this period, I have been interrogated for more than a dozen times. I was body searched every time I was taken out of the cell. I was assigned code-names in the detention centre, they never use my real name. I was called “Su Aiqi” in the cell, and “AAA” in the hospital. I was deprived of my right to communications ( I have never received letters from outside; I have sent letters to my family and friends but I aware that they have never received them. ) The detention officers repeatedly confiscated my case materials and my diaries.

Thank you all for your care and concerns, which have helped me endure the pains of illness and through the two severe winters in this harsh environment . I believe spring will come soon.

I wish you peace, freedom and happy spring festival 2016.”
Su Changlan

Maggie Hou is a close friend of Su Changlan. Read her article about her friend and her work.

Read here