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Eleven countries urge China to end torture of rights lawyers, US a notable absentee

Li Wenzu, left, wife of imprisoned lawyer Wang Quanzhang, holds a paper that reads "Release Liu Ermin" as she and supporters of a prominent Chinese human rights lawyer and activists stage a protest in Tianjin, China. File August 2016. (Photo courtesy: AP/Gerry Shih)
Li Wenzu, left, wife of imprisoned lawyer Wang Quanzhang, holds a paper that reads “Release Liu Ermin” as she and supporters of a prominent Chinese human rights lawyer and activists stage a protest in Tianjin, China. File August 2016. (Photo courtesy: AP/Gerry Shih)

(TibetanReview.net, Mar23, 2017) – Eleven countries have, in a letter dated Feb 27, jointly called on the Chinese government to investigate “credible claims of torture” against human rights lawyers, reported Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper Mar 20. The report said the signatories to the letter, which has not been made public, also condemned China’s practice of detaining suspects in secret locations for long periods of time.

The report said the United States was a notable absence from the list of signatories. The letter was reported to be signed by ambassadors and diplomatic representatives from Canada, the UK, Australia, Japan, Switzerland, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany and Sweden.

The signatories were reported to have called for an end to China’s practice of “residential surveillance at a designated place” in which suspects could be held before their trial in a secret location for up to six months. The practice is said to put the detainees at high risk of torture and ill-treatment and is criticized as being “contrary to China’s international human rights obligations.”

The letter was also reported to express “growing concern over recent claims of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in cases concerning detained human rights lawyers and other human rights defenders,” including activist Wu Gan and human rights lawyers Xie Yang, Li Heping, Li Chunfu and Wang Quanzhang.

“This letter is an important, positive example of how governments can band together to make their voices heard on human rights issues in China, and to lend support to those human rights defenders whose work has gotten a lot harder since President Xi came to power in March 2013 when he started a campaign assaulting civil society,” humanosphere.org Mar 21 quoted Maya Wang, a researcher in Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, as saying.

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