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Lawyer Expresses Concern Over Rights Defender Su Changlan’s Health In Custody

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China Change

This article was first published in China Change on November 23, 2015

[caption id="attachment_5257" align="alignleft" width="300"]Su Changlan, a petitioner and an activist in Guangdong province (China Change) Su Changlan, a petitioner and an activist in Guangdong province (China Change)[/caption]

Su Changlan  is a 44-year-old former school teacher and a petitioner-turned-activist in Guangdong province. She was arrested a year ago for her activism on women’s rights issues, and posting online messages in support of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong in 2014, according to Amnesty International. Following a recent meeting with her, her lawyer Wu Kuiming expressed grave concern over her rapidly deteriorating health in custody. Human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong , when apprised of the situation, said: “If we don’t take action and alleviate the situation, she will wither away before our eyes.” Maltreatment of political prisoners has become routine in Chinese prisons, and in Su Changlan’s case, the death of Cao Shunli last year and Zhang Liumao  this year should sound an alarm.  

From lawyer Wu Kuiming:

[Rights defender] Su Changlan has been arrested since October 27, 2014, for allegedly “inciting subversion of state power.” Her case was finally brought to the Foshan City Intermediate People’s Court in Guangdong after a lengthy process of detention, formal arrest, an extended investigation, and two re-investigations when the procuratorate returned the case to public security. One of her counsel, Liu Xiaoyuan, of Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, found out the status of Su’s case on November 13 following assiduous inquiries with the authorities. Even so, when I ran an enquiry about the case in the Foshan court, it did not appear in the court records.

On November 20 at 3:45 p.m. I met with Su Changlan in the Nanhai police detention center and found that she had been indicted on November 13, and had received the Indictment. The Foshan Procuratorate formally interrogated her for the first time (and as of November 20, the only time) on October 21. That was after the case had been taken up by the procuracy for the third time. Su Changlan maintains that she is not guilty.

When I met with Su Changlan in the visiting room, she was as usual led in with a black hood over her head. When it was taken off, I saw she was in terrible shape—her skin and complexion was sallow, her body clearly frail. She said that she’s been locked up for over a year already, and that conditions in the detention center are horrendous. She is receiving no treatment for her illnesses, she said, and apart from the illnesses she suffered before, her throat is now chronically swollen and she coughs regularly. Earlier she’d coughed so much that she hacked up blood; after a physical inspection they gave her fluid infusions for two days.

Su says that the year-long detention has ruined her health: for a year, she has only been able to drink cold water (warm water is rare) and only able to shower in cold water. This has been extremely destructive for her as a female, she said. After six months she began suffering constipation, irregular menstrual periods, and other symptoms (women locked up in the same cell for more than six months nearly all have the same illnesses). On top of that, Su is highly sensitive to the cold, and even though Guangdong’s winter this year has been as hot as summer, she still wears a lot of clothes and uses a thick comforter. But she coughs every time she drinks cold water.

[She told me] a few days ago the detention center conducted a physical inspection of all prisoners who’ve been held more than six months; they found that Su was suffering an arrhythmic heartbeat and counterclockwise rotation of the heart. Su on three occasions wrote to the police as well as prosecutors explaining her history of illness and current symptoms, requesting that she be let out on bail, but received no response.  

During the meeting, I noticed that Su’s right hand was trembling. I asked what was going on, and she responded that she was suffering a calcium deficiency—that it happens whenever she doesn’t get enough calcium.

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