Human rights activist Cao Shunli, who has been detained for months for staging sit-ins at the foreign ministry, has died, a fellow dissident and one of Cao's lawyers said yesterday.
Cao died in a Beijing hospital where authorities had finally let her be taken, after denying her treatment for tuberculosis, liver disease and other ailments. Two weeks ago, a friend said she had suffered organ failure and had only a few days to live.
Her death was announced soon after the start of a session in Geneva of the UN Human Rights Council, a body to which China was elected amid controversy in November.
The hospital informed Cao's brother yesterday that her condition had grown serious, said Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a US-based advocacy group. He arrived in about an hour, but "Cao Shunli had already died", the group said.
"Cao Shunli's wishes were never accomplished," dissident Hu Jia said. "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."
Beginning in June, Cao staged a two-month sit-in along with other activists outside the foreign ministry to press for the public to contribute to a national human rights report.
She went missing in mid-September after authorities prevented her from flying to Geneva for a human rights training programme. She was formally arrested in October on suspicion of "provoking quarrels and stirring trouble", the watchdog group Human Rights in China said.
Liu Weiguo, a lawyer who has been acting on Cao's behalf, said he was "very saddened" by the news. Liu said he and another lawyer, Wang Yu, had been urging officials to allow her to get medical treatment since October.
Wang had said that Cao's younger brother planned to sue the Chaoyang District Detention Centre in Beijing, where his sister was being held, for its "criminal acts" in refusing to provide her the timely medical treatment she needed.
Reuters, Agence France-Presse