July 8, 2016 / 11:20 AM / 3 years ago

U.S. legislators criticize China's rights lawyer crackdown

BEIJING (Reuters) - U.S. legislators criticized China’s detention of dozens of human rights lawyers on Friday, a year after President Xi Jinping began a crackdown on dissent, while Germany urged China to live up to its human rights obligations.

China has arrested dozens of lawyers who worked on issues from minority rights to corruption to local government land grabs. Rights groups say many of them have been denied fair trials, held without charge and faced abuses in police custody.

The U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China called for China to release “political prisoners” and criticized what it termed China’s “blatant disregard for rule of law and universally recognized human rights”.

“China’s government has taken extraordinary steps to decimate the ranks of human rights lawyers, a profession that has quickly become one of China’s most dangerous,” Republican U.S. Representative Chris Smith said in a statement.

“I remain concerned that China is becoming a garrison state, with security forces empowered to lawlessly run roughshod over the rights of China’s citizens in the name of national security.”

China says human rights are its domestic affair and other countries should refrain from offering opinions on the matter.

“China is a country with rule of law. The legal and judicial authorities execute cases in accordance with the law,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing.

“Foreign countries have no right to interfere.”

The German Embassy in China said on Friday saying repeated calls and faxes to Chinese authorities to gain insight on human rights issues had gone unanswered. China’s Foreign Ministry did not comment when asked about the matter.

“We urge China to live up to its international human rights obligations, not least respect for the right to freedom of expression, and its stated commitment to build the rule of law,” the embassy said in a statement.

Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Robert Birsel

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