A Guangxi court has applied for the verdict for women’s rights activist Su Changlan to be deferred for the fourth time, her lawyer has said. Su was detained in October 2014 after making comments on social media in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Occupy movement. She previously worked as a volunteer for the New York-based Women’s Rights in China group, and has been a long time campaigner for women’s and children’s rights.
Lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan posted on his Twitter account on Sunday that he called the Foshan court and was told that it had applied to the Supreme Court before Lunar New Year to defer the verdict by another three months. If approved, it will be the fourth time that it has been deferred, each time for three months.
She pleaded not guilty at a Guangdong court at her trial in April to charges of “incitement to subvert state power.” Liu told US-backed Radio Free Asia at the time that “she had no intention in that direction, and the case basically rested on a few articles she wrote.” Three articles and three WeChat messages were cited in allegations of incitement against her, he said in a tweet.
Su has thus far been detained for 27 months without being sentenced.
According to China’s Criminal Procedures Law, the court must announce a verdict within three months at the latest after accepting the case. Further extensions may be granted in special circumstances with the approval of the Supreme Court.
“This way, the local courts can use special circumstances as a reason to apply to the Supreme Court for approval to extend the verdict numerous times, detaining the defendant long-term,” Liu wrote.
Liu asked the court for an explanation as to why the verdict was deferred but received no answer. He was also unable to obtain an explanation from the court’s supervisory department. He previously made a complaint at the Supreme Court in November, but still has not received a response.
Patrick Poon, a researcher at Amnesty International, told HKFP that deferments for such cases were extremely rare.
“The delayed verdict of Su Changlan’s case once again explain[s] the bizarre practice of the criminal justice system in China. A person can be almost detained indefinitely as the court continues to apply for delaying to deliver its verdict. If the allegations were sound, why would this be the case?”
A ruling for Chen Qitang, another Guangdong activist also charged with inciting subversion, was also delayed three times, and the court looks likely to apply for another extension, Liu said.
The presiding judge for Su’s case has said that he is unable to decide the verdict, according to Liu. “It’s not only the court that can’t decide it, it’s also the Foshan Intermediate Court – otherwise, they wouldn’t drag the verdict out repeatedly. The direction of these two [Su and Chen’s] cases must have met with interference from the powerful organs above.”
Correction 9/2: A previous version of this article incorrectly suggested that the deferral has been approved by the Supreme Court. In fact, the local court has applied for the deferral but the Supreme People’s Court has yet to approve it.