BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese authorities released on Friday a prominent human rights lawyer, Teng Biao, whose detention had been denounced by a U.S. official the previous day.
“He is OK. He was released this afternoon,” said Wang Ling, Teng’s wife, in a brief telephone interview with Reuters.
It would be “inconvenient” to say any more, she said.
Teng was among the most prominent rights lawyers detained in a crackdown on dissent in February, and U.S. State Department official Michael Posner denounced his detention while he was in Beijing on Thursday for talks focused on human rights.
During his visit, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Posner told reporters after two days of talks that he had raised the Obama administration’s “deep concerns” about the crackdown on dissidents and a deterioration of human rights in China.
“Teng Biao is a victim of an inexcusable detention, and his disappearance and random reappearance is indicative of the increasingly unlawful actions of Chinese law enforcement toward perceived sources of dissent,” said Phelim Kine, Asia researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Kine said there was growing concern that the conditions of release for lawyers like Teng were to remain silent and cease their human rights services.
“If that is true, it would be a huge blow to the human rights fight which they have bravely been at the forefront of for the past several years,” Kine said.
The latest U.S.-China dialogue on human rights came at a contentious time, after China has jailed, detained or placed in secretive informal custody dozens of dissidents, human rights lawyers and protesters it fears will challenge Communist Party rule.
Posner said he had warned China that the broader U.S.-China relationship could suffer as a result.
In February, overseas Chinese websites, inspired by the “Jasmine Revolution” of anti-authoritarian uprisings across the Arab world, called for protests across China, raising Beijing’s alarm about dissent.
China’s leaders have said that U.S. complaints about its human rights records amount to illegitimate meddling and China has become increasingly unyielding in the face of Western pressure. It points to the United States’ own human rights controversies such as a high rates of incarceration.
Posner said he had also raised concerns about Ai Weiwei, an internationally recognized artist who faces a police investigation on suspected economic crimes.
Ai’s family says that the accusations are an unfounded attempt to silence him, and that they have not heard from him since he was detained in early April.
The Obama administration may also discuss human rights next month at the annual Strategic and Economic in Washington D.C., when top-level Washington and Beijing officials will talk about economic ties, currency issues and international security.
Writing and additional reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Robert Birsel