Cao Shunli: 'Access denied' to Chinese activist's body

Prominent Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli stands in front of an emblem of the Chinese Communist Party during an interview in the central business district of Beijing 23 March 2013 Ms Cao was detained as she tried to fly to a UN human rights convention in September

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The family of a Chinese activist who died in police detention this month have been denied access to her body, Amnesty International says.

The rights group says that a Beijing hospital told Cao Shunli's brother and lawyer on Wednesday that her body was no longer being held there.

It says the hospital refused to disclose her medical records.

Ms Cao's family say she was refused medical treatment in custody, but China says her rights were protected.

'Markings of a cover-up'

The activist, 52, had been suffering from tuberculosis, liver disease and other ailments, according to the watchdog group Human Rights in China.

Her brother, Cao Yunli, told the BBC that she had been denied medical treatment until it was too late to save her.

But China has denied any mistreatment, saying that the activist's "lawful rights and interests have been protected in accordance with law".

Friends of human right activist Cao Shunli stand in front of an intensive care unit where Cao is hospitalized as they are not allowed to go inside of the unit at a hospital in Beijing in this 1 March 2014 file picture Ms Cao's relatives say they last saw her body when she died on 14 March

Her brother and family lawyer were reportedly prevented from seeing her body at the 309 Military Hospital in Beijing on Wednesday.

Amnesty International says there are fears the authorities will cremate Ms Cao's body "to destroy any evidence of her mistreatment in detention".

Chief Amnesty researcher Anu Kultalahti said: "This has all the markings of a cover-up on the part of the authorities."

The family said there were black and purple marks on Ms Cao's body the last time they saw it on 14 March.

This makes it even more important that the post-mortem examination report is released, Amnesty says.

Countries including the US and Britain have expressed concern over her death.

Cao Shunli was dedicated to promoting human rights in China.

She had advocated for the right of independent civilians to participate in the Chinese government's drafting of human rights reports.

Ms Cao was prevented from flying to Geneva to attend a UN training programme in September after being detained on suspicion of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble".

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