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Police Use Cao Shunli’s Disappearance to Intimidate MFA Sit-in Petitioners

October 3, 2013

Sources told Human Rights in China that on the morning of October 3, more than a dozen petitioners and rights defenders, including a 77-year-old woman, engaged in a sit-in in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were taken by police to the Chaoyangmenwai Police Sub-station (朝阳门外派出所) for questioning. The sources, who were among those taken in and questioned, said that they were later released, some at around noon and others at around 8:30 p.m.

One of the sources said that during the questioning, the police asked many questions about Cao Shunli (曹顺利), the rights defender who was an active participant in sit-ins in front of the MFA since mid-June until her disappearance on September 14. According to that source, the police warned that Cao is about to be “sentenced” and protestors should stop going to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Another source said that when he arrived at the sit-in location at around 7:30 a.m., he found four police vehicles and dozens of police officers waiting. This source said that after being taken to the police sub-station, he was bodily searched, photographed, had his blood drawn, and his mobile phone confiscated.

 “The authorities’ intimidation of and threats to Chinese citizens appear to be part of their effort to build a case against Cao Shunli,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China. “These actions raise serious human rights and rule-of-law concerns about the Chinese government’s commitment to implementing its international obligations, and should be addressed at China’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review at the UN, and in the assessment of its bid for membership in the UN Human Rights Council.”

Since 2008, Cao had been actively pressing for civil society participation in the drafting of China’s National Human Rights Action Plan and the state’s Human Rights Report for its Universal Periodic Review, scheduled for October 22.

On September 14, Cao was scheduled to board a flight at the Beijing Airport to Geneva to attend a training session for NGOs on UN human rights mechanisms. She has not been heard from since. Recent reports, still unconfirmed, indicate that she has been criminally detained.

Her disappearance has gained international attention. On September 26, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, during its review of China’s progress in implementing international obligations in protecting children’s rights, asked the Chinese delegation to provide information on Cao’s whereabouts. The Chinese delegation made no response to the question.

HRIC urges the Chinese authorities to immediately release Cao Shunli or provide reassurances to the international community regarding Cao’s safety and status, and that she will be afforded all due process protections provided by Chinese law and required by international standards.


For more information on Cao Shunli, see:

For more information on China's Universal Periodic Review and related UN work, see:

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