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EU demands China release citizen-journalist Zhang Zhan who reported on Covid-19

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The European Union on Tuesday demanded China release citizen journalist Zhang Zhan and 12 Hong Kong activists detained at sea, as it looks to seal an investment deal with Beijing. 

The flurry of EU statements came as the bloc gears up to agree the pact with China after seven years of painstaking negotiations, despite concerns about China’s labour and civil rights record.

Zhang was jailed on Monday for four years over allegations of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” during her coverage of the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak in epicentre Wuhan, her lawyer said.

“According to credible sources, Ms Zhang has been subject to torture and ill-treatment during her detention and her health condition has seriously deteriorated. It is crucial that she receives adequate medical assistance,” EU foreign policy spokesman Peter Stano said in a statement.

On Monday, Brussels also demanded the release of Yu Wensheng, a human rights lawyer jailed on December 13.

The EU listed Li Yuhan, Huang Qi, Ge Jueping, Qin Yongmin, Gao Zhisheng, Ilham Tohti, Tashi Wangchuk, Wu Gan, Liu Feiyue “as well as all those who have engaged in reporting activities in the public interest”.

Ten Hong Kong pro-democracy activists also went on trial in the Chinese city of Shenzhen on Monday, after they were among a group of 12 arrested by authorities as they tried to flee to Taiwan by speedboat in August. 

“The defendants’ rights to a fair trial and due process — in accordance with international human rights law and as provided by China’s Criminal Procedure Law — have not been respected,” Stano said in second statement.

 “The European Union calls for the immediate release of these 12 individuals and their swift return to Hong Kong.”

The EU’s 27 member states on Monday gave the green light for the European Commission to go ahead with the investment pact with Beijing.

Some MEPs have expressed concern that the deal sends the wrong signal on human rights, especially over China’s treatment of the Uighur minority and Hong Kong.  

(AFP)

 



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