A group of independent United Nations experts today urged Chinese authorities to promptly investigate the circumstances leading to the death of prominent human rights lawyer Cao Sun Ly Shunli, who died in the hospital on 14 March.
According to a news release issued by the experts, Ms. Cao had tirelessly campaigned since 2008 for transparency and greater participation of civil society in the periodic review of China’s human rights record by the UN Human Rights Council.
On 14 September 2013, Ms. Cao was prevented by Chinese authorities from boarding a flight from Beijing to Geneva where she was to participate in a human rights seminar and observe China’s review by the Council.
Her whereabouts were unknown until she was charged with the crime of provocation, noted the experts, who are tasked by the Council with reporting on various human rights issues. Her health deteriorated while she was in detention and she was transferred to hospital in a critical condition on 19 February 2014.
“Ms. Cao’s enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, failing health and the fact that she was denied medical care were brought to the attention of the UN experts who transmitted urgent appeals to China,” stated the experts, who urged the Chinese authorities to promptly investigate the circumstances leading to her death.
“The death of Ms. Cao is a tragic example of the results of criminalization of the activities of human defenders in China and reprisals against them. It is unacceptable that civil society activists pay the ultimate price for peaceful and legitimate interaction with the United Nations and its human rights mechanisms,” the experts said.
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
Expressing their concern about Ms. Cao’s death are the Special Rapporteurs on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; on the right to freedoms of peaceful assembly and association; on the right to freedom of opinion and expression; on the situation of human rights defenders; and on the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; and the Working Groups on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, and on Arbitrary Detention.