U.S. calls on China to release human rights activist

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday called for China to immediately release an imprisoned veteran human rights activist, saying a Chinese court violated fundamental human freedoms this week when it sentenced him to jail for 12 years.

Huang Qi, who has been detained since 2016 and is known for running a website tracking abuse accusations, was also stripped of his political rights for four years in the sentence handed down on Monday by a court in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan.

“We call on China to immediately release Mr. Huang, and to allow him access to his family, medical care, and legal counsel as soon as possible,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

“The imprisonment of Huang Qi underscores China’s continued repression of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including free speech,” she added. “We urge the Chinese government to uphold its international commitments related to fair trial guarantees and the rule of law.”

China has rejected criticism of its human rights record and has said those who are jailed have broken the country’s laws.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has led a campaign detaining and jailing hundreds of rights lawyers and activists since 2012.

Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by David Gregorio