BEIJING (AP) — A U.S. assistant secretary of state said Friday he told Chinese officials they weren’t following their own laws in detaining lawyers and others in a wide-ranging crackdown on human rights defenders.
Tom Malinowski, assistant secretary of state for human rights, democracy and labor, led a U.S. delegation that met in Beijing with representatives from the ministries of public security, justice and foreign affairs, as well as judges and the State Council, China’s Cabinet, to discuss legal issues.
Since May, dozens have been rounded up in a crackdown on rights lawyers and social activists. Their detentions appear to be aimed at stopping any potential groundswell of opposition to the ruling Communist Party.
“There’s absolutely no question that existing laws in China have been completely thrown by the wayside in terms of the length of time these people have been detained without charges being brought,” Malinowski told reporters. “Chinese law allows for 37 days … but they’ve gone past that in a number of cases.” He said detainees also haven’t had access to their lawyers.
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He said the U.S. delegation brought up specific cases, including those of Wang Yu, a lawyer taken away on July 9, and her 16-year-old son, who was briefly detained and is under police surveillance.
Chinese officials have said such cases are being handled according to law, and that no other country should interfere in China’s judicial independence.
The talks were part of the seventh U.S.-China Legal Experts Dialogue, which took place Thursday and Friday.
Chinese media reports said China brought up problems that Chinese companies face when investing in the U.S.
China has pointed to the U.S.’s own human rights record as “terrible,” and said in a report published by the Cabinet that it was haunted by spreading guns, frequent violent crimes and excessive use of force by police officers.
Malinowski said he acknowledged the U.S. was “not perfect,” but added, “We make the case that every great country is judged by not whether it has human rights problems but whether it has institutions through which people can get redress.”
Malinowski also said they expressed concerns about some proposed Chinese laws, including a counterterrorism law “which basically defines terrorism as any thought, statement or action designed to influence government policy-making.”
“Presumably most Chinese government officials at some point have had a thought designed to influence government policymaking,” he said.