Winner Named for the 2024 Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders

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Winner Named for the 2024 Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders

A group of human rights defenders, “Support ‘The Chained Woman’ Focus Group,” is the recipient of the 10th Annual Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders. The 2024 award recognizes the volunteers of “Support ‘The Chained Woman’ Focus Group” for their human rights activism and their brave efforts to seek accountability through international human rights mechanisms despite the risks and government reprisal.

March 14, 2024, marks the tenth anniversary of Cao Shunli (曹顺利)’s death in police custody in Beijing. Rights activists in China have designated March 14 as “Human Rights Defenders Day.”  Several Chinese human rights organizations established the award in 2014 to honor the memory of Cao Shunli, her life, and her work. The award has been given to those who carry on Cao Shunli’s legacy of grassroots human rights advocacy and who have made great efforts to hold the government accountable for its rights violations, despite threats of reprisals. The award includes prize money to support ongoing initiatives and to assist the recipients in their recovery and recuperation from reprisals.

Meet the honoree: 

The “Support ‘The Chained Woman’ Focus Group” is a community of grassroot volunteers who spontaneously gathered online and offline, in real space, to advocate for the human rights of trafficked women with disabilities in rural China in response to explosive reports of what came to be known as the “chained woman” case in a poor village in China’s prosperous Jiangsu Province in early 2022. During the past two years, the volunteers mobilized the participation of netizens, persistently engaged in advocacy for policy change and conducted public awareness campaigns about rural women’s rights. They brought the case and their findings about trafficking of women, especially those with disabilities, and forced marriage in rural China, to several UN treaty bodies for their reviews of China’s implementation of international conventions for protecting the rights of women and persons with disabilities, seeking accountability for victims and systemic change. Members of the group have been subjected to detention, interrogation, police visits and intimidation in reprisal for their activism, especially, their efforts to cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms.  

Previous Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders Recipients

The Cao Shunli Memorial Award acknowledges the efforts of all human rights defenders in China who have demonstrated a deep commitment to promoting human rights, typically in the face of great personal risk. The award has been announced annually on March 14, the anniversary of Cao’s death in 2014. In 2015, disability and labor rights activist Zhou Weilin (周维林) was the first recipient of the award. Housing rights activist Jia Lingmin (贾灵敏) received the award in 2016. Women’s and housing rights activist Su Changlan (苏昌兰) won the award in 2017. In 2018, human rights activists Chen Jianfang (陈建芳) and Li Xiaoling (李小玲) were the co-recipients of the award. Barefoot lawyer Ji Sizun (纪斯尊) received the 2019 award months before he died due to torture in a hospital bed guarded by police. The award went to two human rights defenders, Zhang Jianping (张建平) and Wang Heying (王和英) in 2020, and Li Yufeng (李玉凤) and Li Qiaochu (李翘楚) in 2021. The award was given to health rights campaigner He Fangmei (何方美), and detained human rights lawyer Chang Weiping (常玮平) in 2022. And Xu Qin (徐秦) and Peng Lifa (彭立发) won the award in 2023.

Click here to learn more about Cao Shunli’s background, activism, detention, and the reaction to her death and efforts for accountability.

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