Government Responses to Cao Shunli's Death
UK calls on Chinese authorities to allow all detainees proper medical care:
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.
The Honourable Deepak Obhrai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and for International Human Rights, issued the following statement:
Canada is saddened and concerned by reports that Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli passed away on March 14. We send our condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.
Cao Shunli worked tirelessly and peacefully over the years to request that her government allow the public to participate in preparations for the review of China’s human rights record at the United Nations.
Her arrest last year and subsequent death is disturbing, and we call on the Government of China to fully respect the human rights of all Chinese citizens.
I am deeply saddened by the death of Ms Cao Shunli. She had campaigned peacefully for the full participation of independent civil society organisations in the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process and was due to travel to Geneva when she disappeared, and was subsequently arrested and put in detention, although never indicted. As her health seriously deteriorated, she was finally transferred to a military hospital where she died on 14 March 2014.
The EU would like to pay tribute to Ms Cao Shunli's engagement and recall the EU's attachment to the full participation of independent civil society organisations in the Universal Periodic Review process.
The EU also reaffirms its call on China to implement the announcements made at the last Third Plenum Central Committee of the 18th Chinese Communist Party, as well as the pledges before the Human Rights Council, by releasing all those imprisoned or detained for the peaceful expression of their views.
Press Statement by Jen Psaki, U.S. State Department spokesperson:
The United States is deeply disturbed by reports that rights activist Cao Shunli has passed away at a hospital in Beijing. We offer our condolences to her family.
Chinese authorities detained Cao Shunli in Beijing on September 14 while she was on her way to participate in civil society meetings in preparation for China’s Universal Periodic Review last October. We have repeatedly raised our concerns about Cao Shunli’s detention, including her deteriorating health, with Chinese authorities.
We continue to be concerned about the human rights situation in China and will continue to urge Chinese authorities to guarantee all Chinese citizens the protections and freedoms to which they are entitled under China's international human rights commitments.
I am deeply saddened by the death of human rights activist Cao Shunli. She was a courageous champion of an independent civil society in China. The German Government and the EU repeatedly urged – unfortunately without success – that the imprisoned Cao Shunli, who was seriously ill, be given medical treatment.
I appeal to China – a member of the UN Human Rights Council – to respect human rights standards and to allow civil society to participate in the process of country reviews. I also call upon China to ensure medical care for prisoners and not use it as a means to exert pressure on them or their families.
In this statement, the EU highlighted several situations of concern, including “a current disturbing phenomenon taking place worldwide in the form of growing efforts to restrict, punish and deter human rights defenders and civil society organizations from operating freely, online and offline.”
The EU specifically raised Cao Shunli’s death among what it calls “severe human rights violations” in China:
The EU is deeply saddened and shocked by the passing last week, of Ms. Cao Shunli, Chinese human rights activist detained for several months for supporting the participation of independent civil society in the UPR of China. We pay tribute to Ms. Cao Shunli and remind that her case is just one in a multitude of trials, convictions, detentions and house arrests of human rights defenders in China, and harassment of their relatives.
Nobel peace prize winner, Liu Xiaobo, and Xu Zhiyong, member of the New Citizens Movement are detained for peacefully advocating social justices, others like Ilham Tohti for peacefully promoting the human rights of minorities. We are also concerned by the health conditions of some relatives of prominent human rights defenders, such as Liu Xia and Chen Kegui. The EU considers those to be severe human rights violations contrary to the pledges and duties of a Human Rights Council’s member.
Finally, we are concerned that China refuses to cooperate with Civil Society in the UPR process. We note with profound sadness the recent death of Cao Shunli, a civil society leader who sought to engage the Chinese government on these issues and was detained for her efforts. Thank you.
Germany is deeply troubled that the UPR of China is overshadowed by the death of Mrs. Cao Shunli, who was recently detained and later formally arrested when she attempted to travel from Beijing to Geneva in September 2013 to take part in a meeting preparing for this particular UPR of China. She is reported to have died because she was denied medical treatment for months during her incarceration.
Participation of Civil Society is part and parcel of this UPR process. China has accepted to refrain from impeding Civil Society and has forcefully asserted that there is no issue of suppressing Human Rights Defenders in China. For taking this engagement seriously, Mrs. Cao Shunli has paid with her life. Germany urges China to establish the circumstances of the death of Mrs. Cao Shunli and bring those to justice who have been involved in her secret detention and decease. We also urge China to live up to its commitment to ensure unimpeded participation of Civil Society in the UPR as well as in public life in China.
At the same time, we express deep concern about the fact that a well-known Chinese human rights defender, Mrs. Cao Shunli, was detained by police at Beijing airport in September while on her way to Geneva to attend a training exercise connected with the UPR of China and we’re very disturbed to hear that she recently died in China after her health deteriorated while in custody.
We recall that Civil Society is assigned an important role in the UPR process by this council’s resolution 5/1 and other relevant documents and call on China as we do on others to respect this and to ensure unhindered access to and communication with international bodies, in particular the UN, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of Human Rights, including this council and the UPR. We continue to count on constructive cooperation with China as members of the Human Rights Council to promote and protect human rights in throughout both of our countries and the world.
The UK was deeply saddened by the death of UPR activist Cao Shunli on 14 March, six months after she was detained at Beijing airport en route to Geneva. Ms Cao was reportedly denied access to adequate medical care in detention for serious health problems including tuberculosis and liver disease.
We continue to 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. We also call on the relevant authorities to ensure that there is a timely, transparent and independent investigation into the circumstances leading to Cao’s death.
The European Union expresses its appreciation regarding the active role and engagement of civil society organisations and groups at different phases of the UPR, both in States under Review and in Geneva. The UPR would not be able to give a comprehensive picture without abundant information provided by the stakeholders on each State´s fulfilment of its international human rights obligations and commitments.
In this vein, we condemn all acts of intimidation or reprisals towards individuals and groups who cooperate, have cooperated or seek to cooperate with the UN. In this context, the EU would like to pay tribute to the memory of a human rights defender Cao Shunli who was prevented from coming to Geneva and died last Friday as a result of several months of detention and insufficient medical care, which, as underscored by Special Procedures, is a tragic example of reprisal for cooperation with the UN. We urge all States to refrain from such actions that infringe the universality of the UPR process.
There have even been reported cases of persecution, harassment and criminalization of people involved in the UPR or interested in the mechanism. Some human rights defenders were arrested apparently for the sole reason of striving peacefully for the improvement of human rights situations in their own countries. In this regard, we have been appalled by the harassment, arrest and the recent death in jail of Ms. Cao Shunli, a human rights defender who had peacefully strived to engage in the UPR mechanism. We express our condolences to Ms. Cao Shunli’s family and call for a prompt and independent investigation of her death.
The case of Ms. Cao Shunli and other cases of attacks against those cooperating with the United Nations, including the UPR, are highly disturbing. We call for the preservation of the openness of the UPR process and for putting an end to any form of reprisals. All people jailed for being active in the UPR process should be released without delay.
Cao Shunli’s Living Legacy: International and Domestic Responses
- Cao Shunli’s Living Legacy: International and Domestic Responses, March 18, 2014
- Rights Defender Cao Shunli Died in Hospital in Beijing, Lawyer Barred from Viewing Body, March 14, 2014
- Doctor Says Cao Shunli on Life Support, Family Made to Sign Medical Parole, February 28, 2014
- Lawyers and Activists Urge Police to Make Public Cao Shunli’s Condition, February 24, 2014
- Hospital Says Cao Shunli is “Deeply Unconscious,” More than 20 Rights Defenders in Custody, February 21, 2014
- Rights Defender Cao Shunli in Intensive Care, February 20, 2014
- Cao Shunli Ill in Detention, Refuses to Sign Official Arrest Document, October 31, 2013
- UN Experts Voice Serious Concern as China Faces Human Rights Review, October 18, 2013
- Shanghai Rights Defenders Urge UN to Investigate Rights Violation of Cao Shunli, Chen Jianfang, October 17, 2013
- Cao’s submission to the UPR Working Group (in Chinese original and HRIC English translation)
- Cao’s case documents (organized with English summaries by HRIC)
- Cao Shunli: UPR Submission and other Documents, October 8, 2013
- Police Use Cao Shunli’s Disappearance to Intimidate MFA Sit-in Petitioners, October 3, 2013
- Chinese Activists Calling for Greater Participation in China’s International Human Rights Reporting Taken Away by Police, July 1, 2013