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UNIVERSAL JURISDICTION

China rebukes Spain for allowing international arrest warrants to prosper

High Court orders detention of former president and ex-premier in Tibetan rights case

“We hope that the Spanish government can distinguish right from wrong,” says spokesman

China on Tuesday lodged a strongly worded protest with the Spanish government over the High Court’s decision to issue international arrest warrants for former President Jiang Zemin, ex-Premier Li Peng and three other top Chinese officials for alleged rights abuses in Tibet.

“China is extremely dissatisfied with and resolutely opposed to the wrong actions of the relevant Spanish [court] taken while ignoring China’s solemn position,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a daily briefing.

“Whether or not this issue can be appropriately dealt with is related to the healthy development of ties. We hope that the Spanish government can distinguish right from wrong.”

On Monday, High Court Judge Ismael Moreno asked Interpol to arrest Jiang, Li and the three others for human right crimes, including alleged torture and genocide in Tibet under their watch during the 1980s and 1990s.

The diplomatic complaint from Beijing came on the same day that heated debates began in Congress on a proposal to limit the judiciary’s ability to open human rights investigations in other countries based on the universal jurisdiction doctrine. The Popular Party (PP) presented a proposal to clip judges’ powers, which has angered rights groups, prosecutors and the entire opposition, which has announced it would vote against it.

Thubten Wangchen, a Spanish citizen, monk and a member of the Tibetan-Parliament-in-Exile, filed the case, along with two Tibetan rights groups, in the High Court in 2006 accusing the former Chinese officials of crimes against humanity.

"The Chinese government is putting a lot of pressure on the Spanish government to change laws, and the Spanish government is saying 'yes, yes sir,' but the Chinese don't own the world," Thubten Wangchen told Reuters in an interview in Spanish in Madrid.