Cao Shunli

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Cao Shunli (simplified Chinese: 曹顺利; traditional Chinese: 曹順利; 1962 – 14 March 2014)[1][2] was a Chinese lawyer and human rights activist.

Early life[edit]

Cao was born in Beijing, but during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1971) she was forcibly deported along with her family to their ancestral home in Zhaoyuan, Shandong Province as a result of her grandfather being a member of the "enemy classes" according to Communist Party of China doctrine of the time.[3] After attending Beijing College of Political Science and a period of post-graduate study she was assigned to work at the research centre of the Ministry of Labor and Human being Resources.

Political activism[edit]

During the 2002 housing reforms, Cao reported corruption amongst her supervisors and lost her job.[3] Thereafter she became a human rights activist and subsequently served at least two terms in prison camps as a result of her activities.[4]

Arrest and death[edit]

Following a two-month sit-in at the Foreign Affairs Ministry as part of a group demanding a national human rights review,[5] in September 2013 Cao planned to attend a training session on human rights held by the United Nations in Geneva. However, she was arrested at Beijing Airport, and disappeared for several weeks.[2] In October 2013 she was charged with illegal assembly and picking quarrels and provoking trouble.[2]

Cao was diagnosed with pneumonia in November 2013, and fell into a coma in February 2014, at which point she was transferred to a military hospital in Beijing.[2] Cao died in hospital on 14 March 2014, with her body showing "signs of her mistreatment during approximately five and half months in detention".[6]


  1. ^ "Cao Shunli". Human rights in China. 18 March 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d Richardson, Sophie (14 March 2014). "Dispatches: The Death of a Defender in China". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  3. ^ a b Cao, Yaxue (18 March 2014). "The Life and Death of Cao Shunli (1961 — 2014)". Retrieved 19 March 2014.
  4. ^ "US 'disturbed' by death of Chinese activist Cao Shunli". BBC News. 15 March 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
  5. ^ Kaiman, Jonathan (14 March 2014). "Chinese activist Cao Shunli dies after being denied medical help, says website". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
  6. ^ "Cao Shunli's death a huge blow to human rights movement in China". Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. 17 March 2014. Archived from the original on 19 March 2014. Retrieved 18 March 2014.