Thu, Jul 12, 2018 - Page 5 News List

EU pushes China to free activists three years on

Reuters, BEIJING

The EU urged China to free dozens of activists during a human rights meeting in Beijing this week, three years after a crackdown that jailed scores of lawyers and activists.

The EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, which ended on Tuesday, came at a sensitive time for China, as families and activists marked the detention of hundreds of people in what has become known as the “709 crackdown” on July 9, 2015.

Since taking office in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has adopted a zero-tolerance approach to dissent, tightened the party’s grip over the legal profession and overseen the jailing of dozens of rights activists.

The EU delegation late on Tuesday said it raised nearly 30 cases with its Chinese counterparts, from Muslim minority Uighurs “detained in violation of their fundamental human rights” to Tibetan religious figures jailed for speaking out.

Chinese officials tend to bristle at talk of individual cases and prefer to discuss only the principles of human rights issues, Beijing-based Western diplomats said.

Among those singled out by the EU were Gui Minhai (桂民海), a Swedish national and Hong Kong-based book publisher, who was abducted while on holiday in Thailand in 2015, and Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), a rights lawyer held incommunicado for three years.

“The EU also stated its expectation that all detained individuals be allowed to be represented by a lawyer of their choosing … and have allegations of their torture and mistreatment promptly investigated,” the EU statement said.

China rejects foreign criticism of its human rights record and points to its successes in pulling millions of people out of poverty as proof of human rights progress in China.

China asked the EU to objectively view China’s rights achievements and raised the issues of immigrant protection and sexual discrimination in the EU, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Yu Wensheng (余文生), a rights lawyer who defended colleagues arrested in the crackdown, was also on the EU’s list.

Yu was stripped of his legal license and arrested on charges of subversion in January, after he circulated a letter calling for the revision of the Chinese constitution.

“They keep extending the detention period and I’m really worried that they will just keep on extending it without reason,” said Yu’s wife, Xu Yan (許艷), who has been advocating on behalf of her husband. “It’s inhumane the way that they keep us in the dark.”

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