China: Reported detention of human rights defender, Ms Cao Shunli

On 30 September 2013, it was reported that human rights defender, Ms Cao Shunli, who had been missing since 14 September 2013, has been formally detained by police in Beijing.

Cao Shunli has been campaigning since 2008 for greater civil society involvement in China’s drafting of its reports for the Universal Period Review (UPR) and of its National Human Rights Action Plans. China is due to have its next UPR examination by the UN Human Rights Council on 22 October 2013.

On 30 September 2013, the domestic Chinese organisation Human Rights Campaign in China reported that it had received information that Cao Shunli had been criminally detained by police on 28 September 2013. She is believed to be held at Beijing First Prison. Cao Shunli’s family has not received any legal notification that the human rights defender has been formally detained.

On 14 September 2013, Cao Shunli was prevented from boarding a flight to Switzerland by two security agents at Beijing Capital Airport, who proceeded to interrogate her at the airport. Since then, the human rights defender has not been heard from and repeated efforts of friends to contact her have proved unsuccessful. Cao Shunli was due to fly to Geneva to take part in a human rights training on UN mechanisms organised by an international human rights organisation.

Cao Shunli has long been calling for greater input for citizens into China’s preparations for its UPR and its drafting of human rights reports. As a result of this advocacy, she has been harassed, interrogated and detained numerous times. In October 2012, Cao Shunli wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to enquire about public participation in the drafting of the National Human Rights Report for the UPR and asking that the details be made public.
The following month, the Ministry responded to her saying that some of the information she applied for was not suitable ‘for public disclosure’ due to the State Secrets law. Cao Shunli, along with a number of fellow human rights defenders, has engaged in sit-ins outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since June 2013 to demand greater participation in the UPR process. The police has broken up these protests on three occasions.

Evidence indicates that the disappearance and subsequent reported detention of Cao Shunli are directly related to her peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights; in particular, her advocacy for Chinese citizen involvement in the UPR process.