Submission to UN on Su Changlan – June 12, 2015

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Submission to:

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders


Communiqué on Behalf of Su Changlan, Citizen of the People’s Republic of China,

Alleging Arbitrary Detention, Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and Reprisals against a Human Rights Defender



1. Family name: Su (苏)

2. First name: Changlan (昌兰)

3. Sex: Female

4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): August 18, 1971

5. Nationality/Nationalities: People’s Republic of China

6. (a) Identity document (if any): ID Card

(b) Issued by: Guangdong Province Foshan City Public Security Bureau

(c) On (date):

7. Profession and/or activity (if believed to be relevant to the arrest/detention):

A prominent activist in Guangdong Province advocating election, land, and women’s rights, Su Changlan was an elementary school teacher for over decade but fired due to her public and political activism. Ms. Su’s rights advocacy work has made her a frequent target of constant surveillance, harassment, and retaliation from local authorities. Police seized her after she expressed support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong that began in late September 2014, as part of a large-scale crackdown on free expression rights.

In 1999, she successfully provided assistance to rural married women whose land had been taken away in Sanshan Village in Nanhai City, Guangdong. The unfair treatment and discrimination against rural married women have become a growing issue in China, as laws fail to ensure a woman’s right to land after marriage to someone from a different village. For the cases in Sanshan, Su produced a substantial amount of legal materials, including appeals and complaints, and the rural women received some compensation. By 2004, Su had become a popular figure among villagers due to her efforts in defending land grabs in Sanshan, and had mobilized farmers to stand together and ward off government encroachment.

8. Address of usual residence: Nanhai District, Foshan City, Guangdong Province, China


II. Arrest

1. Date of arrest: October 27, 2014

2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): Su Changlan’s home (detailed above).

3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: Nanhai National Security guards and police officers from Guicheng Police Station, Nanhai Branch of Foshan Public Security Bureau (Foshan PSB)

4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority? No notice is known to have been issued.

5. Authority who issued the warrant or decision: Nanhai National Security guards and Foshan PSB officers verbally summoned her.

6. Reasons for the arrest imputed by the authorities: The authorities cited the charges of “creating a disturbance.”

7. Legal basis for the arrest including relevant legislation applied (if known):

According to Article 293 of China’s Criminal Law, if convicted of “creating a disturbance,” a fixed-term imprisonment of up to 5 years will be issued to those who (1) willfully attacking another person and the circumstances are serious; (2) chasing, intercepting, or cursing another person, and the circumstances are serious; (3) forcibly taking away, demanding, or willfully damaging or seizing public or private property; and the circumstances are serious; or (4) creating a disturbance in a public place, causing serious disorder.


III. Detention

1. Date of detention: Criminally detained on October 27, 2014, then formally arrested on December 3, 2014.

2. Duration of detention (if not known, probable duration): Su has been in detention since October 27, 2014.

3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: Foshan PSB

4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): Ms. Su was forcibly taken to Guicheng Police Station in Nanhai District in the morning of October 27, 2014. She was criminally detained that evening on “inciting subversion of state power.” She was then transferred to her current place of detention, Nanhai District Detention Center.

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Foshan PSB

6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities: Su Changlan’s family did not receive a detention notice. According to the official arrest notice, dated December 3, 2014, Su was arrested on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.”

7. Legal basis for the detention including relevant legislation applied (if known):

“Inciting subversion of state power” under Article 105 (2) of China’s Criminal Law stipulates a fixed-term imprisonment of not less than five years, criminal detention, public surveillance or deprivation of political rights to those who incite others by spreading rumors or slanders or any other means to subvert the State power or overthrow the socialist system.


IV. Describe the circumstances of the arrest.

At around 8 a.m. on October 27, 2014, a group of national security officers and police officers arrived at Su Changlan’s home and verbally summoned her on a charge of “creating a disturbance,” but no written summons was provided. At 3:30 p.m., five officers entered Su’s home while her husband was there and confiscated three computers, but they did not disclose why or where Su was detained. That evening, Ms. Su was interrogated about her posts on WeChat, a popular messaging tool in China, and she was charged with a more serious crime, “inciting subversion of state power,” with the alleged offense stemming from her support online for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.


V. Indicate reasons why you consider the arrest and/or detention to be arbitrary.

Su Changlan’s detention occurred at a time where authorities across China were clamping down on individuals, especially human rights defenders, who were expressing their support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Following the outbreak of the protests, more than 100 mainland Chinese activists, writers, and artists were detained in October 2014, expressly to deprive them of their rights to expression and movement.

Police officers refused to produce any warrant when taking away Ms. Su or when they returned later to seize her property. This is a violation of Article 83 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), which stipulates that public security bureau officers must produce an official notice when placing an individual under detention.

Su Changlan’s pre-trial detention has been replete with procedural violations. After she was seized, her family members did not even know of her whereabouts until December 3, 2014, when she was formally arrested. At the detention center, local authorities registered Ms. Su under a different name in order to deny her right to access legal counsel. When her husband inquired about her at the center, staff told him there was no individual by that name detained there. Her lawyers came to suspect that Su was being secretly detained; at one point, the facility receptionist suggested that perhaps she was registered under a different name but refused to say what name. Su confirmed this suspicion during a meeting with her lawyer: the head of discipline told her that she was registered as “Su Erqi (苏贰漆)” after she was brought into the detention center.

For over the first six months of her detention, Su was denied visits with her lawyers and family, as government officials cited concerns over “possible obstruction to investigation”; she only gained access to her attorney on May 6, 2015. (China’s Criminal Procedure Law gives police overly broad and arbitrary power to deny detainees’ access to their lawyers if they deem that a case involves “state secrets” or “state security.”) In addition, Su and her husband’s letters to each other never made it to each other’s hands, and postcards to Su reportedly did not receive postcards that supporters had sent to her.

Furthermore, Su Changlan experienced degrading treatment and deprivation of medical care. Su indicated to her lawyer that guards strip-searched her after counsel visit, forcing her to take off her pants and underwear. According to Su’s lawyer, the cell she was put into severely overcrowded; the cell is 80 square feet and usually holds 50 to 80 women, and the space she has to sleep is only 60 centimeters wide, often preventing her from falling asleep. Su has been subjected to over a dozen harsh interrogations during which she was threatened with a severe prison sentence. Su also told her lawyer that due to the poor living conditions and her health problems—Su suffers from hyperthyroid heart disease that causes irregular heart beats that can be fatal if not promptly treated—she frequently suffers from numbness in her hands and feet, headaches, and constant tearing in her right eye. Despite these physical problems, the detention center has restricted her access to medical treatment; for instance, Su was denied medical care and suffered from a fever for over a week in April 2015.

The above rights deprivations and mistreatment clearly violate Chinese law. According to Regulations on Administrative Detention Facilities, went into effect on April 1, 2012, detainees are allowed the following rights that Su has not enjoyed: prompt notification of families regarding a detention; prompt medical care for ill detainees; correspondence with the outside world during periods of detention, which includes barring of inspection or confiscation of correspondence; and meetings with lawyers during their periods of detention.

Su has said to her lawyer that she suspected authorities had been intent on punishing her in retaliation for representing thousands of disadvantaged farmers in a litigation case against government authorities. One month prior to her current detention, Su was also detained to apparently prevent her from attending the trial of prominent activist Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄), who was arrested for leading an anti-corruption campaign.

The arbitrariness of Su Changlan’s ongoing detention is also reflected in the bulk of concocted evidence alleging criminal activities. According to her lawyer, over half of her case materials relate to her exercise of free expression, including email exchanges between Su and others. One document showed that the detention center acknowledged receiving more than 400 mailed items from inside and outside of China addressed to Su, although she has not seen one.

In retaliation for her advocacy activities, Ms. Su has been detained solely on the basis of the peaceful exercise of her rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The circumstances of her detention satisfy both Category II (i.e., when the deprivation of liberty results from the exercise of the rights or freedoms guaranteed by articles 7, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, and 21 of the UDHR and Category III (i.e., when the total or partial non-observance of the international norms relating to the right to a fair trial, spelled out in the UDHR and in the relevant international instruments accepted by the States concerned, is of such gravity as to give the deprivation of liberty an arbitrary character).


VI. Indicate internal steps, including domestic remedies, taken especially with the legal and administrative authorities, particularly for the purpose of establishing the detention and, as appropriate, their results or the reasons why such steps or remedies were ineffective or why they were not taken.

After Su Changlan’s husband, Chen Dequan (陈德权), received an arrest notice for Ms. Su, authorities continued to deny Su her right to legal counsel. After months of failed requests to see Su, her husband and brother began to protest in February 2015 in front of a police station, holding banners that said, “Conscience is not violence. Su Changlan is innocent.” Both of them were later criminally detained for nearly one month.

Applications were submitted for Su to be released on medical bail, as she reportedly suffers from hyperthyroid heart disease, which can be fatal if not properly treated; Su had been hospitalized in 2014 prior to her detention and has required attentive medical care. Authorities denied the requests for bail. In addition, Chen has submitted a Government Information Disclosure request in order to learn about Su’s health conditions at the detention center. After authorities refused to disclose any information, Chen filed a litigation case against the Nanhai PSB. The case was heard on April 7, 2015, but the Nanhai People’s District Court refused to give a verdict or announce when it would issue a verdict.


Date submitted: June 12, 2015

December 16, 2015 – Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Opinion No. 39/2015 (China) concerning Su Changlan

(任意拘留问题工作组任意拘留问题工作组第七十四届会议(2015 年 11 月 30 日至 12月4 日) 通过的意见第 39/2015 号意见 事关苏昌兰(中国))

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