Chinese Activist Denied Lawyer, Family Visits, Health Status Unknown

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Originally published by Radio Free Asia on January 22, 2015

The husband of women’s rights activist Su Changlan, held on subversion charges after she supported Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, says he will sue the authorities over their refusal to allow her a meeting with a defense lawyer, and over a total lack of official communication about her case.

Su was formally arrested by police in the southern province of Guangdong on Dec. 3 for “incitement to subvert state power,” but her husband Chen Dequan said the authorities in Foshan city have refused to provide basic details about her case.

A volunteer for the California-based Women’s Rights Without Frontiers group, Su was initially detained in October, but her lawyer has been refused permission to meet with her twice.

“They told me that it would be ‘inappropriate’ to release the details of the case,” said Chen, who had put in a formal request for information from the government and police on his wife’s case.

“I wanted them to make public her state of health, but they refused.”

Chen said he now plans to file a lawsuit against the Foshan police department. “Su Changlan’s brother has gone to make photocopies, and then we will submit it to the Nanhai District People’s Court [on Friday],” he said.

Su’s lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan told RFA that Chen and the rest of her family are anxious to discover whether she had been subjected to a forced confession, and are also concerned about her state of health.

“This isn’t [confidential] government information, so I believe this decision that has been taken internally is incorrect,” Liu said.

“Information about someone’s health doesn’t form part of a criminal case; it has nothing whatsoever to do with it,” he said.

“Incitement to subvert state power,” a charge listed in Article 105 of China’s Criminal Law, carries a maximum jail term of five years, but this can be extended for those regarded as “ringleaders” or in serious cases.

The authorities have previously invoked a need for secrecy in some cases involving “national security.”

Liu said files on Su’s health would definitely exist, as files are set up for any citizens taken into custody.

“She has been held since Oct. 27, which is a long time, and her lawyers have made two applications to meet with her, both of which were denied for various reasons,” he said.

“Her family members are very worried about her, and have asked the Nanhai district state security police to pass on letters, but they have never had a reply,” he said.

“The fact that they’ve [been refused information] makes the family even more worried.”

Occupy supporters

The overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group, which collates and translates reports from rights groups inside China, says it had documented the cases of more than 100 people detained for supporting Hong Kong’s Occupy Central campaign for fully democratic elections by Nov. 14.

Besides Su, eight others have been formally arrested, 18 remain under criminal detention, while 37 others are currently being held in some form of police custody.

In total, 38 have been released, with or without conditions, while four were released after serving administrative detentions, CHRD said in a statement at the end of last year.

No reason was given by police when they detained Su, who has campaigned vigorously in recent years for the political, economic and social rights of women and girls.

She has previously been held and questioned over her women’s rights activism and her support for Zhang Anni, daughter of Anhui-based dissident Zhang Lin.

Dubbed “China’s youngest political prisoner,” Zhang Anni was held under house arrest and removed from two primary schools, sparking protests that she was being punished for her father’s activism.

Now at school in the United States along with her sister Ruli, Anni has written to U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, the U.S. Congress and the European, British, and Canadian parliaments, saying that the charges against Zhang Lin are “groundless.”

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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