China U.N. Rights Activist in Intensive Care, Denied Visits

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Originally published by Radio Free Asia on February 21, 2014

A prominent China rights activist detained after she tried to take part in a United Nations review of China’s human rights record is in intensive care after being denied medical treatment for months, her lawyer and rights groups said on Thursday.

Cao Shunli, who suffers from tuberculosis, cirrhosis of the liver, and uterine fibroids, was initially taken to the intensive care unit of Beijing’s Qinghe Emergency Center following a long delay before treatment was offered by the Chaoyang District Detention Center, her lawyer Wang Yu said.

“Cao Shunli is unconscious and on a ventilator,” Wang said.

“She can’t talk and her condition is extremely serious…We think her life is in danger, but the hospital won’t give us any details; they just mumble something when we ask them.”

Wang said she had been denied access to Cao, who has since been transferred to the 309 People’s Liberation Army Hospital in Beijing.

The overseas-based group Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) described Cao’s condition as “critical,” in a statement on Thursday.

“Amid a heavy police presence at the hospital, several activists have been blocked from entering the hospital and questioned by police,” the group said in an e-mailed statement.

It said the hospital had also ignored requests from Cao’s family to have her transferred to specialist hospital.

Fellow rights activist Wu Tianli said he had been refused access to Cao by police from her detention center after arriving at the hospital.

“I didn’t manage to see anyone,” Wu said. “We went to the Emergency Center, which is a hospital that transfers patients elsewhere.”

“After we got there, we were prevented from seeing her; even her lawyer wasn’t allowed to see her,” he said.

Cao was detained in September 2013 at Beijing’s international airport as she tried to board a plane to Geneva to receive training from a U.N.-backed group in human rights work.

Earlier, she led a sit-in outside the foreign affairs ministry calling on officials to allow nongovernment activists a role in China’s human rights review at the U.N.

Overseas treatment

A number of fellow activists and petitioners have called on the authorities to allow Cao to seek medical treatment overseas.

Tianjin petitioner Zheng Mingfang said she had also tried to visit Cao in hospital on Thursday, amid concerns that the authorities had deliberately allowed her health to deteriorate.

“[They] are calling on the government to treat Cao Shunli more humanely, because her life is in danger,” Zheng said.

“She was in good enough health when they detained her.”

Cao was formally arrested last October on charges of “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order.”

China was subsequently given a seat on the United Nations’ Human Rights Council last November.

“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,” (CHRD) spokeswoman Renee Xia said in a statement.

“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,” Xia said.

Cao had previously been detained several times after she began advocating for civil society participation in the UPR in late 2008.

She has also served a term of “re-education through labor,” an administrative punishment which was technically abolished at the beginning of this year.

Reported by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Xin Yu for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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