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Guardian: China rejects 'groundless' US criticism over human rights activists' convictions

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Guardian
Reuters in Beijing
Saturday 6 August 2016 10.00 EDT
Last modified on Saturday 6 August 2016 10.20 EDT

■ Wang Yu, who has been lauded by the American Bar Association, renounces her work and awards in what rights groups say was forced confession

China has rebuked the US for criticising its convictions of human rights activists, a court this week having sentenced three rights advocates and a lawyer to up to seven and half years in jail for subversion.

Dozens of people linked to the Beijing Fengrui law firm have been swept up in a crackdown on dissent since last July, as President Xi Jinping’s administration has tightened control, citing a need to boost national security and stability.

The sentencing of the activists and lawyer has been condemned by international rights groups. On Thursday, a US state department spokesman said the US was concerned about the convictions made on “apparently politically motivated charges”, and called for the release the lawyers and activists.

The American Bar Association (ABA) and other groups have recognised Wang Yu, a Fengrui associate and a prominent rights lawyer who had also been held on subversion charges, with human rights awards. The ABA said on its website that it would formally honour Wang at a ceremony on Saturday in San Francisco.

Chinese police and security personnel look on from a distance
traffic is diverted away from a road leading to the No 2
Intermediate People's Court in Tianjin city. Photograph: Rolex
Dela Pena/EPA
On 1 August, Wang appeared on Chinese television, renouncing her work and international awards granted to her. Rights groups slammed it as a coerced confession.

On Saturday, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua quoted her as saying: “I have done nothing important regarding human rights and those overseas who want to give me this award are using me to smear the Chinese government and the country.

“Given that I have clearly refused the award, but the organisation has still made the award against my will, I consider this an infringement of my human rights,” Wang said, urging other activists to “rectify their wrongdoings”.

On Saturday, the China foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the “US accusations are groundless” and urged Washington to “respect the facts”.

“Chinese judicial authorities deal with related cases in accordance with law so that the legitimate rights and interests of defendants could be effectively protected,” Xinhua on Saturday cited Hua as saying.

The Fengrui firm had represented high-profile clients critical of the government. Authorities have accused it of orchestrating protests outside courts, politicising ordinary legal cases and conspiring with “foreign forces”.

Suspects accused of crimes in high-profile cases are often shown confessing on state television. Rights groups have said these confessions, which often take place long before a trial, violate the rights of the accused to due process. China consistently rejects criticism of its human rights record and says forced confessions are banned under law.

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