US renews concerns over China clampdown

China has freed 2 of the human rights lawyers held in a wave of detentions.

Last Updated: Apr 21, 2011, 12:36 PM IST

Washington: The United States on Wednesday reiterated its concerns about China`s clampdown on dissent after Beijing freed two of the human rights lawyers held in a wave of detentions.

The State Department said it was aware of the release of Jiang Tianyong, a top Chinese lawyer handling sensitive rights-related cases, and Liu Xiaoyuan, who represents missing world-acclaimed artist Ai Weiwei.

"But obviously we continue to express our deep concern to the Chinese government over the use of extralegal detention against these and other human rights activists," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

Separately, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, an autonomous government board, urged China to halt detentions during the Easter period and to allow services on Sunday on the Christian holiday.

The unregistered Shouwang Church has urged followers to ignore warnings and to risk arrest by joining Easter services. Its pastor Jin Tianming and several other leaders were detained on Saturday and later released into house arrest.

"Beijing has again responded with ruthless intolerance to peaceful religious activity," said Leonard Leo, chair of the commission.

"The Shouwang Church tried to play by rules that the Chinese government keeps changing. Beijing`s action further alienates the fast-growing number of religious believers in China, particularly during Easter, the most sacred week in Christianity," he said in a statement.

China`s crackdown on dissent is its largest in years, with authorities apparently jittery amid a wave of pro-democracy uprisings in the Middle East. Online postings have urged mass "strolls" in Chinese cities.

Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders said more than 50 activists have been taken into police custody and many more placed under house arrest during the crackdown.

They include Ai, who has long been a thorn in the government`s side but was tolerated due to his international profile. He was taken away earlier this month as he tried to board a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong.

Bureau Report