Fears Grow For Health of Chinese Women's Rights Activist Su Changlan

2017-06-27
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Guangdong rights activist Su Changlan in an undated file photo.
Guangdong rights activist Su Changlan in an undated file photo.
Photo courtesy of HRCChina.org

The health of jailed Chinese rights activist Su Changlan, who once campaigned for the land rights of rural women and supported Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement, has deteriorated rapidly in prison, her husband said following his first-ever prison visit.

Su, 45, was jailed for three years after being found guilty of "incitement to subvert state power" by the Foshan Intermediate People's Court after a more than two years in pretrial detention.

Her husband Chen Dequan told RFA on Tuesday he had finally been allowed to see her on Monday.

"I went to visit her yesterday. Her health is much, much worse than it was before, but there are some details I can't really talk about here, as long as you understand that," Chen said.

"Her hyperthyroidism ... and heart problems are very serious now ... and she speaks haltingly," he said. "She didn't seem normal. She also has mood swings that she can't control."

Asked if his phone calls are being monitored, Chen said: "Yes, by the state security police. I could lose my job, or something similar."

Meanwhile, Su's brother Su Shangwei said his sister is dependent on medication.

"Her health is very poor right now, and she can't be without medication," he said. "Her heart isn't supplying blood [to her extremities] so her hands are numb, and she looks very pale."

"The medication means that she now has kidney failure ... I'd say her life is definitely in danger, and she could much worse at any time now," he said. "There's a limit to what can be achieved by putting her on medication. To get better treatment, she really needs to go to the hospital."

Su's lawyer Wu Kuiming said Su hasn't long left to serve of her sentence.

"We could apply for medical parole on the grounds that she isn't well enough to serve her sentence, but I don't think it would get approved," he said.

"She is due to get out pretty soon now," Wu said. "Her health has been bad right from the start, mainly because of the poor conditions in prison ... the government is so brutal."

Independent health assessment

Amnesty International China researcher Patrick Poon called on the Chinese government to allow an independent medical assessment of Su's condition.

"The view of Amnesty International is that they must allow a person access to adequate medical care, and they must grant any request by a detainee for an independent medical assessment and treatment," Poon said.

"Detainees absolutely have the right to request this," he said.

Su was jailed for three years in March after being found guilty of "incitement to subvert state power" by the Foshan Intermediate People's Court after spending more than two years in pretrial detention. Time already served is usually counted as part of the sentence in China.

Fellow Foshan rights activist Chen Qitang was jailed for four years and six months on the same charge.

The court judgement found that Su and Chen had "used the internet and social media to spread rumors and defamation, and repeatedly published or forwarded articles and posts containing attacks on the socialist system."

Activists in Hong Kong staged a protest against the sentences, because some of the posts made by Su and Chen had been in support of the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy Central movement.

The 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.

In March, Su became the third recipient of the Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders, in honor of her work "promoting human rights at the grassroots level in China."

Su's detention has been judged "arbitrary" by the United Nations, which has called on Beijing to release and compensate her.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Hei Na for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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