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China rejects criticism over detained women's rights activists

Rights group have sounded the alarm over health detained women's rights activists under guard for nearly three weeks. But China has rejected international pressure from European Union and United States to release them.

China's Foreign Ministry rejected Wednesday an international appeal over the plight of five women's rights activists jailed earlier this month.

This week the European Union called on the release of the five activists - Wang Man, Wu Rongrong, Li Tingting, Zheng Churan and Wei Tingting - who were among 10 people arrested as they prepared to distribute stickers with slogans in advance of International Women's Day.

"The recent arrest and detention of women's rights activists in Chinaon the grounds that they wanted to launch a campaign against sexual harassment on International Women's Day violates their right to demonstrate peacefully," the EU said in a statement. "We urge China not to restrict the activities of human rights defenders promoting the human rights of women."

But China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters the following day that critics were interfering China's domestic affairs.

"No one has the right to ask China to release relevant persons, so we hope that relevant people will stop interfering in China's judicial sovereignty in such a manner," she said Wednesday.

Health fears over two jailed women

The remaining five have been detained for nearly three weeks on a charge of planning to create a disturbance. Their defenders warn that two of them are in poor health.

Lawyer Liang Xiaojun said her client, activist Wu Rongrong, is not receiving treatment for a pre-existing condition. "Wu's condition is worsening because she has a serious liver disease and has been denied her medication," Liang told dpa on Tuesday.

Her former attorney Wang Fei also said the woman's health is deteriorating.

"The last time I saw her on March 18 she looked tired and her skin was yellow because of her disease," Fei told the dpa news agency.

Attorneys said a second defendant, Wang Man, suffers from a congenital heart condition and is under stress from constant interrogations.

"In the detention center's environment her condition has worsened and she needs hospital treatment," her lawyer Zhao Xia told dpa news agency.

Activists took strong stance on gender rights

The high-profile activists have taken part in past demonstrations by walking the streets in blood-stained wedding gowns to raise awareness over domestic violence and urged police to take action against sexual harassment suspects.

The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, criticized Beijing last week for keeping the women locked up for taking a stance on social issues.

"If China is committed to advancing the rights of women, then it should be working to address the issues raised by the women's rights activists, not silencing them," she said.

jar/sms (AP, dpa, EFE)