Coming down heavily on the western countries over press freedom, China on Monday said the case of incarcerated investigative journalist Julian Assange reflected the “hypocrisy” of the US and the UK.
“The case of Julian Assange is a mirror. It reflects the hypocrisy of the US and the UK on press freedom,” Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, told a news conference in Beijing.
“People are free to expose other countries but subject to severe punishment if they expose the US,” said Wang, responding to a question on Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, whose extradition order was signed last Friday by British Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Assange’s extradition order was passed to the secretary by the UK courts last month.
His wife, Stella Moris, vowed to fight the decision, saying the British Home Office's decision to extradite Julian Assange to the US is “not the end of the road.”
“We're not at the end of the road here," Morris said on Friday. "We're going to use every appeal avenue and we're going to fight."
After creating WikiLeaks in 2006, Assange published around 1 million documents obtained from American activist and whistleblower Chelsea Manning. The documents included US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and alleged war crimes during those wars.
The publication of a further 250,000 confidential documents relating to US efforts to isolate Iran raised eyebrows in Washington.
People criminalized if they expose US
Assange will face 18 counts of hacking the US government computers and violating the espionage law and a potential prison sentence for years if he is extradited to the US.
Assange has 14 days to appeal since the extradition order was signed.
Launching a broadside on the western standards on press freedom, Wang said: “People are treated either as heroes if they expose other countries or as criminals if they expose the US.”
“In other countries, holding the media accountable amounts to ‘political persecution’ while in the US, clamping down on media is to ‘act in accordance with the law’,” said Wang.
“All eyes are on the Assange case. Hope and believe that fairness and justice will prevail, and that hegemony and abuse of might will not last forever,” he added.
Assange was dragged out of Ecuador’s Embassy building in London last year, where he took refuge for more than seven years.
The British police said he was arrested for skipping his bail in 2012 and on behalf of the US due to an extradition warrant.
Later, he was found guilty of breaking his bail terms in 2012 after failing to surrender to security services by the Westminster Magistrates’ Court and given a 50-week prison term.
US created 49M refugees
Commenting on World Refugee Day being marked today, Wang said the wars “waged by the US after 9/11 have created some 49 million to 60 million refugees.”
“The war in Afghanistan alone has left 11 million people displaced,” said Wang.
The US-led war on Afghanistan ended last August after the complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan which led to the melting of the Washington-backed Kabul administration. Later, the Taliban returned to power after 20 years of war.
“Some Western countries led by the US have long exported war and turmoil, interfered in other countries’ internal affairs, and created humanitarian disasters. It is them that generated the issue of refugees in the first place,” said the Chinese Foreign Ministry official.
“We urge those countries to reflect on the grave impact of their behavior, eliminate the root cause of the refugee issue, and step up to their due responsibilities,” Wang added.