EU urges China to free activists on crackdown anniversary

This comes after the US called for the release of Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Tsinghua University, one of China's top institutions. PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The EU on Wednesday (July 8) urged China to free hundreds of lawyers and rights activists, on the fifth anniversary of a major crackdown.

As relations with Beijing become increasingly complex, Brussels pledged to highlight the "deteriorating situation of civil and political rights in China", including the case of a professor detained after criticising President Xi Jinping over the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement marking five years since the "709 crackdown" - so named because it began on July 9, 2015 - the EU said it expected China to investigate cases of arbitrary detention and mistreatment of prisoners.

"The European Union also expects the Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release, without any restrictions on their movement or work, all lawyers and legal activists imprisoned or persecuted by the authorities for their work before and since the '709 crackdown', such as Yu Wensheng, Li Yuhan and Ge Jueping," the statement said.

The United States on Tuesday called for the release of Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Tsinghua University, one of China's top institutions, and one of the rare prominent figures to offer open critiques of Mr Xi, who has clamped down hard on dissent.

Last week, the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned that existing rights must be protected in Hong Kong after police made the first arrests there under China's new national security law.

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