Detained Activist Cao Shunli in Intensive Care After Authorities Repeatedly Deny Treatment

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Detained Activist Cao Shunli in Intensive Care After Authorities Repeatedly Deny Treatment

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, February 20, 2014) – CHRD is alarmed by reports that detained activist Cao Shunli (曹顺利) is in critical condition following denials and a long delay in treatment by authorities at Chaoyang District Detention Center. Cao was taken to the intensive-care unit of Beijing’s Qinghe Emergency Center four days ago, and is reportedly very frail. Her younger brother apparently has been able to see her, but her lawyer, Wang Yu (王宇), has been denied access to her client and was not notified that Cao was hospitalized. Amid a heavy police presence at the hospital, several activists have been blocked from entering the hospital and questioned by police. Authorities have so far hindered family requests to have Cao transferred to a specialist hospital.

Cao spearheaded a months-long sit-in last year outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asking for a role for civil society in China’s preparations for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Originally detained in September 2013 at Beijing Capital International Airport while on her way to a UN human rights training in Geneva, Cao was held incommunicado for weeks before being arrested in October on charges of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place.”

“The authorities’ mistreatment of Cao shows the government’s defiance of the international community, as the UN Human Rights Council’s UPR last October recommended China end reprisals against activists demanding participation in international human rights activities,” said Renee Xia, International Director of CHRD.

According to her attorney, Cao’s health has seriously deteriorated while in detention. Her family’s requests for medical release have been repeatedly denied, and she has developed a number of serious illnesses, including tuberculosis and liver ascites, and is also dealing with fibroid tumours and cysts without being allowed to see a doctor.


Cao Shunli (曹顺利) of Beijing is reportedly in critical condition after being denied treatment in detention.

Since 2008, Cao Shunli has played a leading role in a campaign to demand the government allow civil society participation in China’s preparations for its UPR at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in February 2009 and October 2013. Government authorities have actively retaliated against those who peacefully participated in the campaign. A central element of the HRC’s review of member states’ human rights record is participation by civil society. However, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in November 2012 declared information about the state’s preparation for UPR a “state secret,” a decision that was upheld by Chinese courts after Cao and several other activists filed a lawsuit against the Ministry. Between June and October, police broke up several sit-ins outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office, detaining and harassing several activists involved. Authorities then blocked Cao and fellow activist Chen Jianfang (陈建芳) from traveling to Geneva to attend a training on UN rights mechanisms and a session of the HRC.

“China’s criminalization and cruel punishment of civil society activists like Cao Shunli for trying to access UN human rights mechanisms is a dangerous precedent,” said Renee Xia. “With its seat secured on the Human Rights Council, China has even less incentive to keep its ‘voluntary pledge’ to protect and promote human rights.”

The election of China to the UN Human Rights Council in November 2013 clearly showed that Member States did not take into consideration the Chinese government’s human rights record, including its lack of cooperation with the Council. The government’s gross violations of human rights, including its persecution of activists like Cao Shunli, and its ongoing crackdown on freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression, show that it is a mistake to think that China will behave more responsibly in supporting human rights as a HRC member.

Cao Shunli has been detained several times since she began advocating for civil society participation in the UPR in late 2008, and has also been sent to a Re-education Through Labor (RTL) camp in retaliation for her activism.


Renee Xia, International Director, +1 240 374 8937+1 240 374

Victor Clemens, Research Coordinator, +852 8192 7875,

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