Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights DefendersComments Off on Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders
Three rights groups in China launched an annual award to support human rights work in honor of activist Cao Shunli (曹顺利), who died on March 14, 2014, after being denied medical treatment for five months in detention. Human Rights Campaign in China (权利运动), Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch (民生观察), and Rights Defense Network (维权网) will bestow an award to a Chinese human rights defender on March 14 each year, which has been designated by some Chinese activists as “Human Rights Defenders Day” to mark the day Cao Shunli passed away.
The recipient will be awarded funding to conduct human rights initiatives, especially “to push for civil society participation in international human rights activities” and to monitor the Chinese government’s implementation of its human rights obligations. In a joint announcement, the three NGOs said that the award will “commemorate Ms. Cao Shunli, so her life’s story will inspire generations to come.”
- 2019: Barefoot lawyer Ji Sizun (纪斯尊) was named the fifth recipient of the Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders. Read the announcement.
Ji Sizun, based in Fujian Province, has defended the rights of disadvantaged groups for years by providing legal aid and offered legal training. In 2008, police detained Ji after he applied for a permit to demonstrate in an official Beijing Olympics “Protest Zone.” For this activity, he was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison on charges of “forging official documents and seals.” After his release from prison, Ji continued to promote legal education. In 2014, police seized Ji and charged him with “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” for helping petitioners to organize two protests in August and September 2014. A Fujian court put Ji on trial on December 2015 and convicted him in April 2016, handing down a 4.5-year prison sentence. Ji Sizun’s health seriously deteriorated during his incarceration, and he suffered a debilitating stroke in 2016 and had not received sufficient medical treatment for a number of severe health conditions. He will be released from Putian Prison in Fujian Province on April 26, 2019.
- 2018: Activists Chen Jianfang (陈建芳) and Li Xiaoling (李小玲) were named the fourth co-recipients of the Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders. Read the announcement.
Chen Jianfang has engaged in human rights activism for the past decade. Formerly a farmer, Chen began defending land and housing rights after she and her family lost land to government-backed developers. She went on to expand the scope of her advocacy, exposing systemic causes of rights abuses and the Chinese government’s persecution of human rights defenders. Chen Jianfang worked closely with Cao Shunli in efforts to participate in national-level consultation with civil society for China’s 2009 UPR. In September 2013, authorities stopped Chen from boarding a flight to attend a human rights training and observe a HRC session in Geneva—on the same day when Cao Shunli was abducted by police while heading to the same program. Police forcibly returned Chen to Shanghai, where she was detained, interrogated, and closely monitored. Chen’s advocacy has put her at constant risk of retaliation by authorities, including intimidation, physical assault, and arbitrary detention.
Li Xiaoling has undertaken human rights advocacy and provided support to persecuted defenders since 2012. Once a successful businesswoman, Li turned to human rights work after she encountered obstacles in her efforts to expose judicial malfeasance in a legal case involving a personal tragedy. Li has vigorously advocated for the rights of marginalized social groups and victims of government persecution, while speaking up in exposing human rights abuses by authorities. Li Xiaoling was detained in 2017 on the 28th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, and formally arrested in September of that year on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Authorities added a “state secrets” charge in November 2018, before swiftly trying and convicting her in a secret hearing. Li was released in December 2018 on a three-year prison sentence, suspended for five years.
- 2017: Activist Su Changlan (苏昌兰) was named the third recipient of the Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders. Read the announcement.
Su Changlan, a leading activist based in Guangdong Province, began her rights advocacy work while still an elementary school teacher. While teaching herself law, she helped married rural women seek justice for deprived land rights, and later went on to fight for the rights of trafficked women and girls and to promote fair elections in rural villages. Su was detained in October 2014 after expressing support for the democracy protests taking place in Hong Kong, and eventually convicted of “inciting subversion of state power.” Her case has been replete with deprivations of her due process and legal rights.
- 2016: Activist Jia Lingmin (贾灵敏) was named the second recipient of the Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders. Read the announcement.
Jia Lingmin was a middle school teacher in Henan before she became an activist following years of fighting for justice as a victim of forced demolition. While petitioning over her personal grievances, Ms. Jia soon learned to use the country’s law in seeking redress and began teaching other victims to fight for their rights through China’s existing legal system. In November 2015, a court in Henan Province sentenced her to four-years imprisonment for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” in a case marred by the denial of her due process rights.
- 2015: Activist Zhou Weilin (周维林) was named the first recipient of the Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders. Read the announcement.
Zhou, whose work includes advocating for persecuted human rights defenders, was released from prison in February 2015 after he served out an 18-month sentence in Anhui Province. In announcing the award, the committee commended Zhou Weilin’s invaluable contribution to the efforts to promote human rights and hold the Chinese government accountable to its constitutional and international obligations. The committee drew parallels between Zhou Weilin and Cao Shunli’s courage and dedication in the face of ruthless government reprisal, with the hope that Zhou, who has courageously persisted in his work to defend human rights, will gain a measure of recognition and protection.
“Third Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders Announcement – Recipient: Su Changlan” (第三届“曹顺利人权捍卫者纪念奖”颁奖公告——获奖人：苏昌兰, March 14, 2017, Human Rights Campaign in China; Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch, Rights Defence Network.
“Second Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders Announcement” (第二届“曹顺利人权捍卫者纪念奖”颁奖公告), March 14, 2016, Human Rights Campaign in China; Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch; Rights Defence Network.
“Announcement: First Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders Recipient” (第一届“曹顺利人权捍卫者纪念奖”颁奖公告), March 13, 2015, Human Rights Campaign in China; Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch; Rights Defense Network.
“Announcement: Cao Shunli Memorial Award For Human Rights Defenders Established To Honor Her Memory” (曹顺利人权捍卫者纪念奖”成立公告), September 26, 2014, Human Rights Campaign in China; Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch; Rights Defense Network.