Five years ago today, Chinese activist Cao Shunli died in a Beijing hospital surrounded by police. Her ordeal began in September 2013, when she tried to fly to Geneva to attend a session of the UN human rights council (UNHRC). Cao had submitted information on extralegal detention and torture in China to the UN and expressed the hope that if she could get even “50 or 100 words” into a UN report, “many of our problems could start to get addressed”.
Cao never made the flight. Police took her away at the airport, detained her for six months, and denied her medical treatment despite repeated warnings from her lawyer that her health was deteriorating, until it was too late. Doctors at the hospital expressed shock at her condition; it seemed she had simply been left to die in her cell. No state agent has been punished for her death.