Guangdong women’s rights activist Su Changlan, who previously voiced support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, has been released after serving a three-year jail sentence, according to her former lawyer.

Liu Xiaoyuan, who represented Su before he was prevented from renewing his lawyers’ licence, told HKFP that Su has returned home on Thursday.

He said that he was not able to speak to her himself, but was told via WeChat message by her family that she had returned home. They did not give further details, he said.

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This photo of Su Changlan after her release was sent to Liu Xiaoyuan by Su’s husband.

Su was detained in October 2014 after posting comments on social media in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Occupy movement. It is unclear whether she remains under surveillance.

She was found guilty of “incitement to subvert state power” by the Foshan Intermediate Court in March and sentenced to three years behind bars. Since the time she already served was counted towards her sentence, she was due to be released after completing her sentence Thursday.

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Her husband told US-backed Radio Free Asia last week that Su suffers from thyroid and heart disease, and was not in good health.

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Protesters occupied Harcourt Road in Admiralty during the Occupy protests. Photo: Wikicommons.

“[I am] happy and worried – happy that she is coming back to me, worried that the government will again put our family under control for a period of time,” he said.

According to Amnesty International, Su’s health sharply deteriorated while she was serving her sentence due to conditions at the Nanhai District Detention Centre in southern China. The NGO said that Su, along with 50 to 70 other inmates, were crammed into an 80 square-metre cell, with a sleeping space of little more than 50cm wide, and inadequate hygiene facilities.

“It’s a relief that Su Changlan will not spend another night in jail, but she should never have been denied her freedom in the first place. Her unjust sentence was compounded by appalling conditions in detention,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

“It is imperative that the authorities ensure that Su Changlan can receive the appropriate medical care she desperately needs and was denied in prison. She should not be subjected to the kind of harassment and interference that human rights activists routinely experience upon their release from detention.”

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, and also voiced support for Su, according to Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK. Chen was sentenced to four years and six months for the same charge, and will serve time until May 24, 2019.

catherine lai

Catherine Lai

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.