The US State Department urged China to release human rights advocates detained by authorities in recent days and accused of conspiring to “create social chaos”.
State Department spokesman John Kirby expressed US alarm at the detentions, which Chinese state media said were meant to break a “rights-defense” movement suspected of instigating protests to manipulate opinion and influence court rulings, Bloomberg News reported.
The crackdown comes days after China’s parliament passed a sweeping national security law seeking to “defend the people’s democratic dictatorship” and preserve “social tranquility”, the report said.
“We are deeply concerned that the broad scope of the new national security law is being used as a legal facade to commit human rights abuses,” Kirby said in a statement issued Sunday night in Washington.
“We strongly urge China to respect the rights of all of its citizens and to release all those who have recently been detained for seeking to protect the rights of Chinese citizens.”
Among those targeted in the latest crackdown are Fengrui Law Firm director Zhou Shifeng and at least five others affiliated with the Beijing-based firm, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
The lawyers are accused of “disrupting public order and seeking profits by illegally hiring protesters and swaying court decisions in the name of defending justice and public interests,” Xinhua said, citing a statement by the Ministry of Public Security.
More than 50 human rights lawyers and activists had been targeted as of Saturday, Amnesty International said.
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