December 22, 2017 / 9:45 AM / in a month

China tells U.S. not to be a 'human rights judge' after sanctions on Chinese official

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Friday urged the United States not to set itself up as a “human rights judge” and denounced the U.S. Treasury Department for punishing a Chinese public security official for alleged rights abuses.

Gao Yan was one of the targets of an executive order issued by U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday blocking the property of foreigners involved in human rights abuses.

Gao had been in charge at Chaoyang Detention Centre in Beijing where a Chinese rights activist, Cao Shunli, was held and questioned prior to her death in hospital under police custody in March 2014. Rights groups say Cao was tortured and denied medical care.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing that China opposed the United States using sanctions to target other countries’ citizens based on their own domestic laws.

“We urge the United States to impartially and objectively look upon China’s human rights development and to stop acting as a so-called human rights judge,” she said, adding that China’s police maintain public security in accordance with law.

The head of the Russian republic of Chechnya and four other Russians and Chechens were also included on the list of individuals to be targeted under the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law which freezes the bank accounts of those targeted.

Hong Kong-based group Chinese Human Rights Defenders said in a statement that they welcomed Gao being named, but that they regretted the inclusion of only a low-level Chinese official, calling for Fu Zhenghua, a deputy minister of public security, to also be included.

“Other higher-level police officials, who had ‘command responsibility’ for Cao Shunli’s death in custody and for other incidents of torture and human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, continue to enjoy impunity,” they said.

Beijing regularly rejects foreign criticism of its human rights record saying that its people are best placed to judge the rights situation in China and that the country is governed by law.

President Xi Jinping has presided over a crackdown on rights activists and lawyers that has seen hundreds detained or jailed since 2015 in what advocacy groups have called an unprecedented attack on human rights in China.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Nick Macfie

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