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BEIJING, China – The European Union has said it is seriously concerned about the arrest of two prominent Chinese human rights activists and has called for their immediate release after they were detained in Beijing last week en route to a meeting with EU officials.
The detention of Yu Wensheng and Xu Yan shortly before their meeting with visiting EU officials last Thursday, April 13, was “already not acceptable,” an EU spokesperson said in an emailed response to Reuters late Tuesday, adding that their “formal arrest on Saturday is a matter of serious concern”.
“The EU requested to the Chinese authorities their immediate and unconditional release,” the spokesperson said.
“China’s ongoing crackdown on human rights activists and lawyers is a well-known EU concern, which we raise at all levels.”
Chinese authorities have not confirmed the detention of the two, a married couple, and Beijing’s Public Security Bureau did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.
When asked about the detentions at a Wednesday briefing, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin did not refer directly to the pair but said “Chinese authorities handle cases according to the law” and China opposed interference in internal affairs.
Yu Wensheng, 55, is a human rights lawyer who last year completed a four-year prison sentence for “subversion of state power”. He was among more than 300 rights lawyers and activists arrested in a 2015 crackdown.
His activist wife, Xu Yan, campaigned for his release, and alleged that he had suffered torture and ill health while in detention. Authorities deny accusations of torture.
The couple had planned to join a meeting with the EU’s visiting top diplomat for Asia, Gunnar Wiegand, EU Ambassador to China Jorge Toledo Albinana, and Chinese civil society representatives, a source familiar with the matter said.
The EU delegation in Beijing said on Friday three other human rights lawyers, Wang Quanzhang, Wang Yu and Bao Longjun, had been placed under house arrest.
Two of those lawyers had successfully attended Thursday’s meeting, said the source, who declined to be identified. – Rappler.com