BEIJING Prominent Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli, detained in September for staging sit-ins at the Foreign Ministry, has organ failure and only a few days to live after being denied medical treatment in detention, said a close friend on Saturday.
Cao's death would generate an outcry from China's fledgling rights community and criticism from the West, which has expressed concern about her case.
News of Cao's deteriorating health comes two days before the start of a session in Geneva of the U.N. Human Rights Council, a body to which China was elected with controversy last November.
"Yesterday at 10 am, the hospital informed the family members to rush to the hospital and said the condition is terminal," Liu Xiaofang, a close friend of Cao, told Reuters.
Liu also went to the hospital and spoke with a doctor surnamed Su who was treating Cao.
"He stressed one point: that Cao Shunli's situation is extremely bad and was caused by her long time in detention. He's extremely dissatisfied with the situation and told the police: this is a person's life, you can't treat this as a game."
Cao's kidneys were failing and the doctor told Liu she had two or three days to live.
Cao staged a two-month sit-in with other activists outside the Foreign Ministry beginning in June to press for the public to be allowed to contribute to a national human rights report.
She went missing in mid-September after authorities prevented her from flying to Geneva for a human rights training program. She was formally arrested in October on suspicion of "picking quarrels and provoking troubles", the watchdog group Human Rights in China said.
Human Rights in China had quoted her lawyer last month as saying she suffered from tuberculosis, liver disease and other conditions. Medical parole had been denied until she was seriously ill.
Wang Yu, Cao's lawyer, told Reuters that Cao's younger brother planned to sue the Chaoyang District Detention Centre in Beijing, where Cao was being held, for its "criminal acts" in refusing to give Cao medical treatment, resulting in her malnutrition and deterioration in health.
Hundreds of activists along with Cao had urged officials to reply to their requests to participate in drafting China's national human rights report ahead of the country's Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations in October.
Cao had been at the forefront of efforts to take part in the process to join the Universal Periodic Review since 2008.