Prominent human rights activist Cao Shunli died in a hospital after she was reportedly denied treatment for tuberculosis and liver disease, among other ailments, until last month. Li was detained in September for organizing sit-ins in front of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and last week, Reuters reported that she only had a few days to live and that her “extremely bad situation” was caused by her long time in detention.
The news comes soon after the start of a session in Geneva of the U.N. Human Rights Council, a body to which China was elected amid controversy last November.
“On Sept 14 … she was perfectly fine and going to Europe for a trip. Now she’s gone. Cao Shunli’s wishes were never accomplished,” dissident Hu Jia told Reuters.
“When the weather gets warmer, we will stand outside the door of the foreign ministry, continue to petition and call for the supervision of the government’s actions. We will remember this date.”
According to Cao’s lawyer, Liu Weiguo, Cao’s family saw wounds on her body, but it is unclear how they were inflicted.
“The hospital is not willing to let the lawyer and the family look at the body,” Liu said.
Cao was stopped at the Beijing Capital International Airport on September 14 by security officers as she was on her way to Geneva, Switzerland to attend a human rights training program. Amnesty reports that she was taken away for interrogation and went missing for a number of days.
Cao’s other lawyer, Wang Yu, had told Human Rights in China last month that she suffered from tuberculosis and liver disease, on top of other conditions, but medical parole had been denied until she was seriously ill.
Wang told Reuters that Cao’s younger brother was planning to sue the Chaoyang District Detention Center in Beijing, where she was being held for “criminal acts”, as the center refused to treat her.
Following news of Cao’s death, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in the UK has called on authorities to allow all detainees proper medical care. A spokesperson said: “We are saddened to hear that Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli has died in detention, after she was reportedly denied medical treatment for serious illness. Ms Cao was a courageous activist who pressed for independent civil society involvement in China’s Universal Periodic Review process, and was detained in September 2013.”
“Members of the Human Rights Council are bound to uphold and promote the highest standards of human rights. We strongly urge the Chinese authorities to ensure all detainees have access to adequate medical care, and to release all those detained for exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.”
[Image via Human Rights in China]