China rejects call by United Nations rights envoy for activist’s release


Philip Alston, the special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, attends a conference in Beijing, , August 23, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

Beijing has criticized a rights envoy for demanding the release of an activist, saying the official has clearly overstepped his mandate and is meddling with China’s judiciary system.
In an address to a Geneva forum on rights on Thursday, Chinese diplomat Jiang Yingfeng said that Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, had interfered with his country’s judicial sovereignty by including a plea for the release of lawyer and activist Jiang Tianyong.
“The special rapporteur referenced certain human rights defenders in his report and in so doing he has overstepped his mandate and meddled with China’s judicial sovereignty,” the diplomat said.
The envoy hailed the “objective and fair” nature of the report by Alston, which commended China for achievements in fighting poverty. However, he said that China would not allow individuals to cover up their activities “using the banner of human rights.”
Despite praising China’s rapid pace in economic development, Alston said in his report that inequality was still “high and is rising” in the country.
The UN official also lamented that space for the expression of views that differ from those of the ruling party was shrinking in China, calling on the authorities to release the activist, whom Alston met in Beijing during a trip to China in August. 

File photo shows Chinese lawyer and human rights activist Jiang Tianyong. 

Jiang Tianyong, a critical of Beijing’s alleged crackdown on rights, was reportedly arrested last November. He was disqualified as a lawyer in 2009 after defending high-profile dissidents and practitioners of Falun Gong, the banned spiritual movement.
Alston said China’s charge of subversion of state power against Jiang was “extremely serious” and “the equivalent of a legal sledgehammer”. The Australian professor on international law rejected China’s claims that calls for the release of an activist could violate a country’s judicial sovereignty.
“I of course do not agree that there is something called judicial sovereignty which would lead a Special Rapporteur or this Council not to reflect on cases that appear to violate human rights, appear to be unjust, even if they are part of the judicial process,” he said. 

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