A Beijing based activist detained by authorities last September while boarding a flight to attend a UN training programme on human rights has died after allegedly being denied treatment while in detention.
Cao Shunli, who had staged a sit-in demonstration in front of the foreign ministry last year to demand public participation in a human rights report from China, was released from detention in February on medical grounds, rights group say, but adding that it was an attempt by authorities to absolve themselves from the responsibility of not giving her adequate treatment earlier.
"Cao had fallen into a deep coma due to organ failure after being denied treatment for tuberculosis and liver problems for five months while in Chaoyang District Detention Center," the Washington-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders said in an earlier statement.
"On September 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 on Friday.
According to the report, though the Cao's family is known to have seen saw wounds on her body, it is not clear how they were inflicted.
Lawyer Liu Weigo claimed that the hospital did not allow the family to look at the body.
According to Human Right Watch (HRW), Cao was known for her work pressing the Chinese government to include input from activists in drafting the country’s report for the top United Nations human rights body. Under a process called the Universal Periodic Review, each country’s human rights record is reviewed every four years. China is seeking a seat on the Human Rights Council.
"The president and member countries of the Human Rights Council should speak out against China’s systematic suppression of activists trying to take part in these human rights reviews," the HRW had said in statement at the time of Cao’s detention, adding that "China’s actions were eroding the integrity of the UN’s top human rights review process, and other countries shouldn’t let China get away with it."