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EU 'deeply concerned' by human rights situation in China

Protesters in Hong Kong carry pictures of detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
Protesters in Hong Kong carry pictures of detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Reuters/Bobby Yip

The European Union expressed its concern on Tuesday about the recent “deterioration” of human rights in China, and called for information on detained artist Ai Weiwei. Beijing refused to give any details on his whereabouts, and criticised other countries for supporting a “suspected criminal”.

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The EU’s head of foreign policy, Catherine Ashton, said she was “deeply concerned” by the arbitrary arrests, harassment and disappearances to which Chinese dissidents and activists have been subjected in recent weeks. Specifically she referred to Ai’s arrest, which she said was alarming.

Such incidents must cease, Ashton said, urging the Chinese authorities to “clarify the whereabouts of all persons who have disappeared recently” and “release all of those who have been detained for exercising their universally recognised right to freedom of expression”.

Pressed for information on Ai on Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei would say only that investigations continue.

“No one is entitled to sit above the law. Anyone who breaks the law will definitely be brought to justice,” he said, adding that China was “unhappy” and “confused” by why certain foreigners consider a “suspected criminal as a hero”.

Ai was taken into custody in Beijing on 3 April, accused of unspecified “economic crimes”.

Several countries, including France, Britain, Germany and the US, have called for his release. China has warned them not to interfere, and on Sunday hit back with a report slamming the US record on human rights.

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