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China urges against meddling amid EU rights concern

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(BEIJING) - China Thursday urged other countries not to use human rights to "interfere" in its domestic affairs, after EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton voiced concern over the jailing of two activists.

Chen Xi and Chen Wei -- two rights activists who live in different provinces and are not believed to be related -- were jailed separately in late December to 10 and nine years respectively for subversion.

"The external world should not interfere in China's internal affairs under the pretext of human rights issues," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters in response to a question on Ashton's comments.

"China's judicial authorities handled the cases in accordance with the law."

Ashton's office said in a statement Wednesday that she "regrets" the jailing of the two Chens, adding she remained "particularly concerned about the case of human rights defender Ni Yulan, particularly in view of Mrs Ni's poor health."

"The European Union is preoccupied with the deterioration of the situation for human rights activists in China and will continue to follow these cases attentively," the statement said.

Ni and her husband Dong Jiqin were tried last week on charges of "picking quarrels, provoking trouble and willfully destroying private and public property" and "abusing other people repeatedly in aggravated circumstances."

But the court has not yet reached a verdict on the case of Ni and Dong, who have helped families around China who have been forcibly evicted from their homes in government-backed land requisitions.

Hong said Thursday "the Chinese government protects and promotes human rights in accordance with the law."

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