Chinese rights campaigners receive Cao Shunli Award on activist’s death anniversary


The Cao Shunli Award has been given to Chinese activists Wang Heying and Zhang Jianping for promoting the protection of human rights in China amid an ever-widening crackdown on human rights advocates by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

The award is named after the late human rights activist Cao Shunli, who died while in police detention after being denied access to adequate medical care on March 14, 2014.

The award “recognises their long-standing grassroots activism to promote protection of human rights in China,” the organizers said in a statement on Friday.

Wang is a veteran activist who has worked alongside detained New Citizens’ Movement founder Xu Zhiyong and rights lawyer Teng Biao to expose the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s use of illegal “black jails,” extralegal detention centres frequently linked to complaints of arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment.

Now based in Jiangsu, Wang began a life of activism after being forcibly evicted and her land taken by local officials with no compensation.

“She then began participating in human rights advocacy campaigns and helping other victims of rights abuses,” the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, which gives the Cao Shunli Award, said in a statement on its website.

She has also helped petitioners to bring their grievances against government officials to court, or to use administrative means to try to hold the government accountable for violations of the law and human rights.

She has also spoken out in support of families affected by tainted vaccines.

“Starting in late 2019, Wang tried to visit detention centres and prisons where activists and dissidents are locked up,” CHRD said.

“In the past dozen years, government authorities repeatedly harassed, intimidated, and detained Wang to penalize her for her human rights activities,” CHRD said.

Wang has been held in administrative detention six times, as well as spending 34 days in criminal detention and serving a year-long stint in a labour camp run by police.She has also been held in “black jails” on nearly 100 occasions, totalling some 700 days, the group said.

The other awardee, Zhang, is a former citizen journalist with Sichuan-based activist Huang Qi’s Tianwang rights website, and has carried out reporting and monitoring activities for a number of rights monitors.

“He has worked with members of disadvantaged social groups, representing victims of rights abuses and acting as their citizen-lawyer in administrative lawsuits cases against corrupt and abusive officials, seeking government information disclosure, and speaking out in support of prosecuted human rights defenders,” CHRD said.

In a recent interview with RFA on March 01, Zhang said the authorities are engaged in an ever-widening campaign to ensure no dissenting voices are heard in China, which contributed to the spread of the coronavirus epidemic even while officials were covering up the seriousness of the new disease.

“The authorities are engaged in a political movement,” he said. “We wouldn’t be in this mess if [officials]hadn’t misrepresented the facts.”

The Cao Shunli Memorial Award acknowledges the efforts of human rights defenders in China who have demonstrated a deep commitment to promoting human rights, typically in the face of great personal risk.

The award is announced annually on March 14, the anniversary of Cao’s death after being denied medical care in a police-run detention centre. (Source: RFA)