Feminist Activist Li Qiaochu Struggles With Mental Health in Detention

Li is accused of "subverting state power" after she spoke out about the treatment of her partner Xu Zhiyong, detained on the same charge.
Feminist Activist Li Qiaochu Struggles With Mental Health in Detention Li Qiaochu, in an undated photo.

Rights activist Li Qiaochu has met with a lawyer for the first time after nearly seven months' detention in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong, on suspicion of subversion, RFA has learned.

Li is currently in COVID-19 quarantine in a hospital under the supervision of the Linyi Detention Center, a Facebook page campaigning on her behalf reported.

Her lawyer visited her there on Aug. 27, during her third hospital visit. Li, who was diagnosed with depression two years ago, needs long-term medication, prompting concerns about her physical and mental health in detention.

"At the moment, she is taking antipsychotics and antidepressants, and due to the side effects, she has gained a lot of weight despite not eating as much as before," a statement on the Free Li Qiaochu page said.

"She said that she does not regret being arrested a second time, and that she spoke out because she had to," it said.

Li has been held in Shandong's Linyi city since her initial detention on Feb. 6, 2021 on suspicion of "subverting state power."

Her detention came after she posted details of torture allegations by her partner, the detained rights activist Xu Zhiyong, and rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi, to social media.

The overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, which honored Li with the Cao Shunli human rights award, said she was likely also being targeted in retaliation for her engagement with United Nations human rights mechanisms.

Rights lawyer Wu Shaoping, who is familiar with Li's case, said she is currently suffering from auditory hallucinations, and from the side-effects of anti-psychotic medication used to suppress them.

"This is because she was already suffering from severe depression before she was detained," Wu told RFA. "She told the lawyer [who visited her] that she had severe auditory hallucinations, that she was hearing voices."

"She wasn't able to get off the medication, and she has put on weight because of it," he said.

"Li Qiaochu has likely been subjected to mild torture in there," Wu said. "It looks as if she's not getting the right kind of diet in there."

"She's in a kind of pure state of mind right now, and she has no regrets whatsoever that she wound up in jail for her man," he said. "She wants to carry on trying to support him."

Xu Zhiyong's mother Luo Shenchun said the meeting with the lawyer came after four previous requests were turned down by the authorities.

"The lawyer submitted four applications to meet with her, all of which were rejected on the grounds that they would leak secrets and compromise the investigation," Luo told RFA. "But there are no state secrets involved here; they just said someone had been leaking secrets."

State subversion charges

Xu, who founded the New Citizens' Movement, and rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi have also been charged with "subversion of state power," and are being held in Shandong's Linshu Detention Center.

Their detentions came after an informal gathering of dissidents in the southeastern port city of Xiamen in December 2019.

"Subversion of state power" carries a minimum jail term of 10 years, with no upper limits on the severity of the sentence, where a defendant is judged to have played a leading role in the events used as evidence.

Those seen as "participants" can be jailed for three to 10 years.

Their lawyers Liang Xiaojun, Zhang Lei, and Peng Jian have yet to be allowed to meet with their clients, although Xu and Ding's cases have been transferred to the state procuratorate for review and prosecution, paving the way for a trial.

Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi were charged with "subversion of state power" and were prosecuted at the Intermediate Court of Linyi City, Shandong Province earlier this month. The family members and lawyers have not yet grasped the specific content of the indictment.

Fellow activists have told RFA that Li is the key to the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)'s ability to keep its nationwide operation targeting political dissidents who attended the Dec. 13, 2019 gathering in Xiamen under wraps.

Li, 30, is also a long-term campaigner against gender-based violence and for labor rights.

In 2017, Li Qiaochu volunteered to provide information and resources to affected migrant workers when Beijing authorities forcibly removed them from the city, CHRD said.

She also boosted the visibility of China’s #MeToo movement by compiling data on sexual harassment, and campaigned against a culture of long hours in the workplace.

Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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Azgar Ishkildin
Aug 31, 2021 03:14 AM

What she needs is freedom, not antidepressants. But freedom is unavaliable