China hit back at United Nations' criticism of its human rights record yesterday, saying a group of detained lawyers had committed serious economic crimes and missing Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo was assisting a police enquiry and did not want publicity.
"Lee repeatedly clarified that he voluntarily went back to mainland China for assisting in the investigation, and is safe and sound," China's mission in Geneva said in a statement. "Lee hopes that the general public respect his personal choice and privacy and do not hype up attention on the case."
Another bookseller, Gui Minhai, had left the country in 2004 after being handed a suspended sentence for killing a student by drunk driving, but gave himself up to police last October, and was also involved in other crimes, the statement said.
Foreign diplomats have said Gui and Lee were believed to have been abducted or coerced from Thailand and Hong Kong respectively, and taken to the mainland. Three other booksellers also went missing.
China said Gui’s case was complicated and involved all the other booksellers, who were being held for investigation.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
Earlier on Tuesday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, had voiced concern for the booksellers, and also urged China to release all lawyers detained in a crackdown that began last July.
Chinese police have detained about 250 human rights lawyers, legal assistants, and activists across the country, although the UN statement said many had later been released. China said all the cases raised by Zeid involved criminal activities and had nothing to do with restricting rights.
"The Chinese Mission expresses strong dissatisfaction and disagreement with the High Commissioner’s misleading remarks," it said.