The appeals for two activists who voiced support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Occupy protests have been rejected by a Guangdong court, according to the defendants’ former lawyer.

Su Changlan, a women’s rights activist, was detained in October 2014 after making comments on social media in support of the movement. Chen Qitang, a freelance writer, was also detained in a closely-related case. He took photos of the Occupy camp in Admiralty and uploaded them to Chinese social network WeChat. He also voiced support for Su, according to Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK.

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Su Changlan (left) and Chen Qitang (right).

Lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, who represented the activists before he was prevented from renewing his lawyers’ license in 2016 and 2017, said on Twitter that the Higher People’s Court in Guangdong rejected the appeals for Su and Chen on Tuesday. The court’s ruling was handed down on May 22, according to a photo of the verdict Liu uploaded to Twitter, yet authorities told Su’s lawyer Wu Kui-ming that the verdict was handed down on Tuesday, Liu said.

“The Guangdong Higher People’s Court did not notify the defence lawyer or conduct a hearing, and directly issued a second-instance verdict on the inciting subversion cases of Su Changlan and Chen Qitang, rejecting their appeals,” Liu said.

Su was found guilty of “incitement to subvert state power” by the Foshan Intermediate Court in March and sentenced to three years imprisonment. Since the time she already served will count towards her sentence, she is due to be released on October 26.

Chen was sentenced to four years and six months for the same charge. His verdict said he will serve time until May 24, 2019.

Su’s lawyers previously said that the court did not ask her if she would appeal after her sentence was handed down, but she told her lawyer Wu Kui-ming in a meeting afterwards that she would do so.

Liu later tweeted that, according to China’s Criminal Procedures Law, the handling of the appeal should have followed the procedures of the original ruling, meaning that the court should have conducted an open trial.

liu xiaoyuan
Liu Xiaoyuan and his lawyer’s license, which he altered to say “lawyer’s unemployment license.” Photo: RFA.

Liu is a prominent rights lawyer who previously represented artist Ai Weiwei. He was a partner at the Fengrui law firm in Beijing, the main target in China’s crackdown on lawyers and activists which started in July 2015. Lawyers at the firm were not allowed to undergo their annual assessments, which are required to renew their licenses, for the past two years, according to Liu.

Correction 26/10: This article previously stated that Liu could not renew his lawyer’s license in May 2017. In fact, he was unable to renew his license in 2016 and 2017. 

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.