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Case History: Cao Shunli

Estatus: 
Deceased
About the situation

In September 2013 Cao Shunli was detained as she attempted to leave the country to attend a training session in Geneva on UN human rights mechanisms. Following prolonged denial of adequate medical attention by the Chinese authorities and despite repeated appeals for her release on medical parole due to her rapidly deteriorating health, Cao Shunli died in hospital in Beijing on 14 March 2014.

About Cao Shunli

Cao ShunliCao Shunli was a Chinese human rights defender who called for greater citizen involvement in China's Universal Periodic Review and the drafting of its human rights reports. As a result of this advocacy she was harassed, interrogated and detained on several occasions.

14 Marzo 2016
On 2nd anniversary of the death of Cao Shunli, Front Line Defenders reiterates its call for those responsible to be held accountable

14 March 2016 marks the second anniversary of the death of Cao Shunli, a human rights defender who was detained and denied adequate medical treatment in police custody for five months, before dying in a military hospital in Beijing in 2014.

Since her death, there has been no public investigation into the circumstances surrounding the continued denial of her requests for medical parole or better medical treatment, nor has any official been held publicly accountable. There has been no visible effort on the part of the authorities to find out why this tragedy was permitted to happen.

On the occasion of the second anniversary of her death, Front Line Defenders once again calls for an independent, impartial investigation into the death of Cao Shunli and that those responsible for her treatment are brought to justice. Furthermore it calls on the Chinese government to ensure that prisoners in ill health are guaranteed adequate medical treatment in all circumstances, as outlined in international human rights law.

Rather than examining their procedures in the wake of Cao Shunli's death, the Chinese authorities have instead doubled down on the irreprisals against human rights defenders and despite the rhetorical emphasis on 'rule of law', it is evident that rule of law as it relates to human rights defenders is further away than ever.

Indeed Cao Shunli's lawyer, Wang Yu, who bravely battled the authorities on her behalf, is now herself behind bars and facing a charge of 'subverting state power'. She is one of scores of human rights defenders around the country who have been detained or sentenced in the past year.

There are serious concerns for the health of some of those detained, including for 2015 Front Line Defenders Award winner Guo Feixiong whose sister reported in late February that he was in 'very poor health' following his transfer from a detention centre after being sentenced to six years in prison last November.

The Chinese government has an urgent responsibility to permit those it imprisons access to proper medical facilities and treatment, should their health deteriorate while in detention.

Needless to say it also has a responsibility to ensure that those who are imprisoned are not subjected to torture, as Guo Feixiong has been during previous incarcerations.

Cao Shunli was disappeared on 14 September 2013 as she was preparing to board a flight to Switzerland to take part in a human rights training on UN mechanisms. Her detention by state security agents was only formally acknowledged on 28 September 2013, and she was not permitted to see her lawyer until 30 October 2013.

At that time, Wang Yu reported that Cao Shunli was extremely thin and had not received any medical attention in the detention centre. Repeated requests for medical parole were denied and her lawyer, along with a number of organisations, including Front Line Defenders, highlighted her rapidly worsening health. She was only moved to a hospital facility in mid February 2014, by which time she was terminally ill. She died on 14 March 2014.

Cao Shunli had been campaigning since 2008 for greater civil society involvement in China's drafting of its reports for the Universal Period Review (UPR) and of its National Human Rights Action Plans. In October 2012, Cao Shunli wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to enquire about public participation in the drafting of the National Human Rights Report for China's UPR, which took place on 22 October 2013, and asked that the details be made public.

The following month, the Ministry responded saying that some of the information she applied for was not suitable 'for public disclosure' due to the State Secrets law. Cao Shunli, along with a number of fellow human rights defenders, engaged in a number of sit-ins outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from June 2013 to demand greater participation in the UPR process. These protests were repeatedly broken up by police.

14 Marzo 2014
Chinese government responsible for the death of Cao Shunli

Front Line Defenders deeply regrets the death of Cao Shunli, 52, who has died from organ failure at a hospital in Beijing. Front Line Defenders holds the Chinese Government accountable for her death and demands that the UN consider a sanction against China for knowingly and wilfully allowing her to die simply because she attempted to co-operate with the UN system. She had been in detention for five months during which her health terminally declined through lack of medical treatment. Cao Shunli suffered from tuberculosis in both her lungs, cirrhosis of the liver and uterine fibroids.

Cao Shunli was disappeared on 14 September 2013 as she was preparing to board a flight to Switzerland to take part in a human rights training on UN mechanisms. Her detention by state security agents was only formally acknowledged on 28 September 2013, and she was not permitted to see her lawyer until 30 October 2013. At that time, Wang Yu, her lawyer, reported that Cao Shunli was extremely thin and had not received any medical attention in the detention centre. Cao Shunli has been campaigning since 2008 for greater civil society involvement in China's drafting of its reports for the Universal Period Review (UPR) and of its National Human Rights Action Plans.

In October 2012, Cao Shunli wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to enquire about public participation in the drafting of the National Human Rights Report for China's UPR, which took place on 22 October 2013, and asked that the details be made public. The following month, the Ministry responded saying that some of the information she applied for was not suitable 'for public disclosure' due to the State Secrets law. Cao Shunli, along with a number of fellow human rights defenders, engaged in a number of sit-ins outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from June 2013 to demand greater participation in the UPR process. These protests were repeatedly broken up by police.

Front Line Defenders was honoured to have known about the work of Cao Shunli. At a side event, opened by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in the Human Rights Council last Monday 10th, Front Line Defenders raised her case as an example of reprisals against Human Rights Defenders who co-operate with the UN.

"Cao Shunli was an honourable woman of exceptional bravery who took on the might of the Chinese government in her efforts to ensure that Chinese citizens had a voice in issues that affected them," said Mary Lawlor, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders. On 16 October 2013, a group of United Nations independent rights experts, including the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, issued a press release regarding reprisals against human rights defenders, including Cao Shunli, for co-operation with the UN on the UPR process. Front Line Defenders also issued a report on the clampdown on 22 October 2013.
 

21 Febrero 2014
Serious concern for health of detained human rights defender Ms Cao Shunli

On 20 February 2014, it emerged that detained human rights defender Ms Cao Shunli is in very poor health and has been transferred to hospital. She has been repeatedly denied appropriate medical attention while in detention in Beijing, and numerous applications for medical parole have also been unsuccessful. Cao Shunli's lawyer, Ms Wang Yu, has not been permitted access to her in hospital. Reports suggest that the human rights defender, who is suffering from a number of illnesses, including tuberculosis and liver disease, has been transferred to an intensive care unit.

Cao Shunli was disappeared on 14 September 2013 as she was preparing to board a flight to Switzerland to take part in a human rights training on UN mechanisms. Her detention by state security agents was only formally acknowledged on 28 September 2013, and she was not permitted to see her lawyer until 30 October 2013. At that time, Wang Yu reported that Cao Shunli was extremely thin and had not received any medical attention in the detention centre.

Cao Shunli has been campaigning since 2008 for greater civil society involvement in China's drafting of its reports for the Universal Period Review (UPR) and of its National Human Rights Action Plans. In October 2012, Cao Shunli wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to enquire about public participation in the drafting of the National Human Rights Report for China's UPR, which took place on 22 October 2013, and asked that the details be made public. The following month, the Ministry responded saying that some of the information she applied for was not suitable 'for public disclosure' due to the State Secrets law. Cao Shunli, along with a number of fellow human rights defenders, engaged in a number of sit-ins outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from June 2013 to demand greater participation in the UPR process. These protests were repeatedly broken up by police.

On 16 October 2013, a group of United Nations independent rights experts, including the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, issued a press release regarding reprisals against human rights defenders, including Cao Shunli, for co-operation with the UN on the UPR process. Front Line Defenders also issued a report on the clampdown on 22 October 2013. For more information on the case of Cao Shunli, please see her page on the Front Line Defenders website.
 

30 Octubre 2013
Lawyer finally permitted access to Cao Shunli

On 30 October 2013, human rights lawyer, Ms Wang Yu, was finally permitted access to Chaoyang Detention Centre in Beijing in order to confirm the whereabouts of human rights defender Ms Cao Shunli. Cao Shunli had been missing, reported detained, since 14 September 2013. According to Wang Yu, Cao Shunli has been detained on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.

Wang Yu reported that Cao Shunli is extremely thin and has not received any medical attention in the detention centre. The human rights lawyer intends to apply for bail for Cao Shunli on 31 October 2013. It is reported that her case has not yet been transferred to the prosecutor as a police investigation into the charges against her is ongoing.

On 14 September 2013, two security agents prevented Cao Shunli from boarding a flight from Beijing Capital Airport to Geneva. She was flying to take part in a human rights training on UN mechanisms, organised by an international human rights organisation.

In the months leading up to China's Univeral Period Review (UPR) on 22 October 2013, Cao Shunli had been campaigning for greater civil society involvement in the UPR process. In October 2012, Cao Shunli wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to enquire about public participation in the drafting of the National Human Rights Report for the UPR and asked that the details be made public. The following month, the Ministry responded to her saying that some of the information she applied for was not suitable 'for public disclosure' due to the State Secrets law. Cao Shunli, along with a number of fellow human rights defenders, has engaged in a number of sit-ins outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since June 2013 to demand greater participation in the UPR process. The police has broken up these protests on three occasions.

1 Octubre 2013
China: Reported detention of human rights defender Ms Cao Shunli

On 30 September 2013, it was reported that human rights defender, Ms Cao Shunli, who had been missing since 14 September 2013, has been formally detained by police in Beijing. Cao Shunli has been campaigning since 2008 for greater civil society involvement in China's drafting of its reports for the Universal Period Review (UPR) and of its National Human Rights Action Plans. China is due to have its next UPR examination by the UN Human Rights Council on 22 October 2013.

On 30 September 2013, domestic Chinese organisation Human Rights Campaign in China reported that it had received information that Cao Shunli had been criminally detained by police on 28 September 2013. She is believed to be held at Beijing First Prison. Cao Shunli's family has not received any legal notification that the human rights defender has been formally detained.

On 14 September 2013, Cao Shunli was prevented from boarding a flight to Switzerland by two security agents at Beijing Capital Airport, who proceeded to interrogate her at the airport. Since then, the human rights defender has not been heard from and repeated efforts of friends to contact her have proved unsuccessful. Cao Shunli was due to fly to Geneva to take part in a human rights training on UN mechanisms organised by an international human rights organisation.

Cao Shunli has long been calling for greater input for citizens into China's preparations for its UPR and its drafting of human rights reports. As a result of this advocacy, she has been harassed, interrogated and detained numerous times. In October 2012, Cao Shunli wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to enquire about public participation in the drafting of the National Human Rights Report for the UPR and asking that the details be made public. The following month, the Ministry responded to her saying that some of the information she applied for was not suitable 'for public disclosure' due to the State Secrets law. Cao Shunli, along with a number of fellow human rights defenders, has engaged in sit-ins outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since June 2013 to demand greater participation in the UPR process. The police has broken up these protests on three occasions.

Evidence indicates that the disappearance and subsequent reported detention of Cao Shunli are directly related to her peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights; in particular, her advocacy for Chinese citizen involvement in the UPR process.