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China arrests human rights activists en route to EU embassy in Beijing

Yu Wensheng and his wife Xu Yan had been due to meet the EU ambassador


APRIL 14, 2023

China on Friday arrested two human rights activists on their way to the EU’s embassy in Beijing.

Human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng and his wife Xu Yan were detained by the Chinese authorities as they were heading to a meeting with the EU’s Ambassador to China Jorge Toledo Albiñana and an unnamed senior EU official.

In response, the EU lodged a protest with the Chinese foreign ministry and demanded the authorities release them and three other detained activists.

News of their detention came only hours after the EU’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell issued a blog post where he cautioned China against any change to the status quo in Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own.

Borrell was supposed to visit Beijing on Friday but cancelled the trip at the last minute after testing positive for COVID 19.

The EU’s diplomat in charge of the Asia Pacific region, Gunnar Wiegand, went ahead with his visit to Beijing where he met a senior Chinese official today, according to a tweet from the EU’s mission to China.

Commission Spokesperson Eric Mamer told a daily media briefing that “[the chronology of the arrest] would indicate that the Chinese authorities were aware of the meeting.”

Yu Wensheng was sentenced to a four-year prison term from 2018 to 2022 for “subverting state power” and claims to have been tortured in prison.

Xu Yan was barred from visiting her husband in prison until 2021, and was held under close surveillance by the regime, according to human rights organizations.

A second commission spokesperson said the “repression of human right activities [in China] is something known to us and is a subject of concern.’’

Stuart Lau contributed reporting.


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