EU calls on China to release rights activists
Police stand guard as vehicles arrive for the trial of disgraced politician Bo Xilai at the Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, Shandong Province on August 26, 2013. The European Union urged China on Wednesday to release prominent activist Xu Zhiyong and others who it said were being held "for peacefully expressing their views."
EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton said Beijing should respect the right to freedom of expression enshrined in international conventions.
It should also "release Xu Zhiyong as well as all other activists who have been detained or put under house arrest for peacefully expressing their views," Ashton said in a statement.
Last month, Chinese police detained Xu, a lecturer at Beijing University, who had called for the release of activists arrested for demanding that government officials disclose their assets.
Rights groups said at the time that Xu's arrest was the latest in a crackdown on political activists launched after President Xi Jinping formally took office in March.
President Xi has vowed to crack down on all forms of corruption, saying it threatens the future of the ruling Communist Party.
The issue has been highlighted by the sensational corruption trial of Bo Xilai, once one of China's most powerful politicians and whose extravagant lifestyle has been detailed in court over the past two weeks.
Ashton said the EU was "deeply concerned" by Xu's case and the arrest of other activists who "have in recent months publicly advocated the rule of law, transparency and social justice and campaigned against corruption.
"The EU welcomes the fact that the new leadership ... has announced that the fight against corruption and the strengthening of the rule of law are political priorities."
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