December 10, 2015 / 5:54 AM / 2 years ago

China rebuffs criticism from U.N. after torture report

Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang talks to media in Beijing in this July 20, 2012 picture. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Thursday rejected a call from a United Nations rights watchdog to halt torture of detainees, saying the group’s recommendations were based on unverified information and that it should “improve its work style”.

China consistently rejects any criticism of its human rights record, saying it is a country ruled by law and that it opposes foreign interference in its domestic affairs.

On Wednesday, the U.N. Committee against Torture voiced deep concern about the deaths in custody of several high-profile political prisoners and over China’s crackdown on lawyers and activists.

China is “resolute and determined on its opposition to the use of torture” and has made much progress in this regard, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

“We have noticed that the opinions of the U.N. commission against torture are based on unverified information,” Hua told a daily news briefing.

“We hope they can scrupulously abide by their mandate, further improve their work style and view China’s honoring of its agreements more fully and more objectively.”

Earlier, the U.S. ambassador to China, Max Baucus, called on China to recognize several detained rights lawyers such as Wang Yu, Li Heping and Zhang Kai as “partners, not enemies of the government” on International Human Rights Day.

Baucus’s statement coincides with one from the German embassy in Beijing, which also highlighted the cases of several detained dissidents and said “serious problems persist” in China with regard to freedom of opinion.

In a statement, Canada’s ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, said he had “witnessed a worrisome increase in the number of Chinese citizens jailed merely for peacefully expressing their views, as well as attempts to silence critics outside of China”.

In July, President Xi Jinping’s administration launched an unprecedented crackdown on human rights lawyers, targeting hundreds in a nationwide sweep. The United Nations said at least 25 of 200 lawyers rounded up since July remain in detention.

Baucus also urged China to release Pu Zhiqiang, one of China’s most prominent rights lawyers.

Pu will stand trial in Beijing next Monday on charges of inciting ethnic hatred and causing a disturbance, said his lawyer, Mo Shaoping, opening what is likely to be China’s most high-profile human rights trial this year.

Hua said other countries “should respect the right of Chinese legal authorities to process their cases in accordance with the law”.

She pointed to accusations of abuse of power and discrimination by U.S. police, saying Beijing hoped “officials in these countries can pay more attention to their own problems”.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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