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U.S. calls on Beijing to grant freedom of movement to Chinese rights lawyer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Monday called on China to allow freedom of movement to prominent rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, whom it said has been released after five years of unjust detention, the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

“We remain very concerned about reports of his declining physical and mental health, and of his mistreatment in prison,” the State Department said, adding that it continued to call on Beijing for the release of “all those unjustly detained,” saying Washington remained concerned by China’s “weak rule of law, arbitrary detentions and torture in custody.”

A Chinese court in January 2019 had imprisoned the prominent rights lawyer for 4-1/2 years for subversion of state power, after he was tried a month before that in a hearing that rights groups had called a sham.

Wang, who had taken on cases deemed sensitive by Chinese authorities, such as accusations of police torture, had gone missing in August 2015 amid a sweeping crackdown on rights activists and lawyers.

Tensions between Washington and Beijing have escalated over the past month over the coronavirus outbreak, which originated in China late last year and since then has infected more than 2.3 million people across the globe.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly accused China of attempting to cover up the spread of the outbreak in its early days and failing to share accurate data about the scale of the cases.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis

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